TriMet announced this morning that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the rail and facilities of the Union Pacific Railroad. TriMet will electrify the lines and convert them to light rail service, to be integrated with the existing system. The Yellow Line will be extended from the Expo Center to run north through Vancouver and Olympia, to terminate at the Seattle's King Street Station, with service planned to start in 2015. By 2018 the Blue Line will be extended from Gresham to run east through Pendleton, Ogden, and Denver to terminate in Kansas City, and by 2021 the Green Line will provide service south through Eugene, Sacramento, and Oakland to end in Los Angeles. Additional light rail lines, tentatively named Crimson, Magenta, Maroon, Brick, Carmine, Scarlet, Lenin, and Reed, will open on the UP tracks from 2021 through 2030 and serve Spokane, Reno, Lubbock, Chicago, Salt Lake City, El Paso, New Orleans, and the Pearl District.
"This is an exciting day for TriMet," said general manager E.M. Frimbo on Friday, "and should easily quadruple our ridership by the time the Scarlet Line opens in 2027. We are optimistic that the Department of Transportation will approve our request for a 95% matching grant to finance track and station improvements, new rolling stock, public art, and two more fare inspectors." Sale of unused portions of the track will also help finance the expansion, as will the increased payroll tax revenues from the ballooning of the service district.
To denote its expansion from 3 counties into nearly 1000 counties, TriMet will change its name to KiloMet.
Transit-oriented businesses cheered the announcement. "Now we will have direct-to-tram service from twelve of the 309 largest metropolitan areas in the country," said OHSU's director of marketing. Sources close to developer Homer Williams said that the eastward expansion will open up opportunities for transit-oriented development of the existing railyard at Hinkle.
However, TriMet's move drew some early criticism, directed at the effects on existing bus service and the fare structure for the new trains. A TriMet spokesman who requested not to be identified said that non-peak service on bus lines numbered 2 and above will be eliminated to provide operating funds for the new light rail lines. Zoned fares will also be a problem. "How can a fare machine issue tickets for 300 different zones?" a critic asked. "And what wild expansion comes next -- Japan?" In response, TriMet confirmed that plans for the Pacific Ocean Passage - Tokyo-Astoria Rapid Transit ("POP-TART") have been indefinitely shelved.