Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Dear Steve Banta,
I spoke with someone at TriMet recently who suggested I might want to contact you.
I have multiple chemical sensitivities and must ride near an open window to avoid negative effects on my health from perfume residues, exhaust, plastic off-gassing and the like. Recently, on my way home from downtown, I got on a bus and found I could not get the window near my seat to open. There was a severe "new-car smell" in the bus, which was one of the new buses with windows that do not open and an inadequate automatic "ventilation" system that is not adjustable by the driver. For the next
week, until I was able to get an appointment with my acupuncturist, I suffered from severe exhaustion and depression, a typical result for me of exposure to these types of toxic gases.
In a way, I'm fortunate, because I react to toxic gases like this immediately, so I have to limit my exposure to them, and am therefore less likely to suffer serious damage from longer term, more frequent exposure. I'm concerned about my own situation, of course, because I can no longer use the bus system to get around town, and since I don't drive, this really limits my ability to get around. However, I'm also very concerned about the exposure of other passengers and, especially, of bus drivers assigned to these new buses who are exposed to the toxic off-gassing during working hours throughout the work-week. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a very informative article about the gases implicated in "new-car smell" in 2006, which you can access here: There is a risk of liver damage for prolonged exposure to some of these chemicals. Others are still not well studied.

It does seem to me that it should be possible to retrofit the new buses to make it possible for the windows to open. I understand TriMet made a deliberate decision to order buses with windows that would not open, in order to prevent interference with the cooling and heating systems on the buses. I think anyone who thought about it for a moment or two would prefer to be a bit chilly or warm, in order to avoid exposure to toxic fumes!

I hope you can do something about this. Please let me know if I can help.
Margaret Donsbach
2875 SW Raleighview Dr.
Portland, Oregon 97225



4/15/09 What do additional cuts mean for Operations?

by Steve Banta — last modified Apr 15, 2009 09:55 PM

September service cuts to go before TriMet Board next week. July non-direct service cuts to be deeper, and potential for December cuts on the horizon.

Stephen R. Banta, Executive Director Operations

The budget situation is creating anxiety for many people. I want to assure you that any rumors concerning specific numbers of job eliminations are just that: rumors. We are carefully evaluating where we have to make workforce reductions. It is still too early to draw any conclusions as to where the cuts will be and whose jobs may be at risk.

Our goal continues to be to preserve as much service as possible for the riding public and to limit personnel reductions. We are in the process of evaluating every part of Operations to find areas where we can do with less, and where we can do without. In some cases, we are going to have to change the way that we do business in order to focus on the core service to our customers.

I am still hopeful that we will meet our targets for September service reductions without layoffs of operators and maintainers, because of retirements, the staffing of Green Line and vacant positions. In mid-February I indicated to you that Operations needed to cut five percent across the board, but that I was holding off on impacting maintenance positions. Unfortunately, the five percent cut is not going to be enough, and I cannot hold maintenance harmless under additional cuts.

General Manager Fred Hansen indicated in his March 24 notice to employees that due to the financial crisis, our budget reductions would need to be greater than originally anticipated. This means deeper cuts—an additional three percent, for a total of eight percent—in non-direct service areas effective July 1. To clarify, "direct service" only includes bus and rail operators, bus and rail mechanics and the materials/supplies needed to operate the vehicles. "Non-direct service" is everything else in the division.

In mid-May we will see our first quarter payroll tax receipts and will determine if additional direct service cuts will be needed in December. I cannot guarantee that there will be no direct service layoffs for December. We will do everything we can to manage personnel cutbacks through open job vacancies and attrition.

At the end of the day, the last things we want to do are eliminate service or take someone's job away. Decisions over layoffs are difficult. They need to be transparent, discussed with ATU and in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.