In 2013, the Oregon Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill seeking a top-to-bottom audit of TriMet by the Secretary of State’s office. Prompted by investigations into sleepy drivers working up to 22 hours a day, Oregon lawmakers called on Secretary of State Kate Brown to conduct an unprecedented, thorough six-month audit of TriMet’s operations, finances, governance and transparency.

2010 Fatal Pedestrian Bus Crash

In addition to citing urgent financial issues, the audit reported major safety concerns that threaten to impact TriMet’s ability to provide service to the public and led to the fatal pedestrian bus crash in 2010 that killed two and seriously injured three others. The crash occurred shortly before midnight on April 24, 2010, as a TriMet bus driver tried to turn left onto Northwest Broadway from the far side of two-lane Northwest Glisan Street, and struck the pedestrians.

Improvements Since Audit

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane said in a statement that it has made several improvements, including changing some turns on a handful of routes and hiring a safety expert to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of its operations. Following the audit, bus collisions, overtime pay and reports of drivers nodding off behind the wheel all are on the decline since TriMet began requiring at least 10 hours off between shifts.

Unsafe Practices Persist

However, TriMet still trains its drivers to make unsafe turns, and the driver’s side mirror also creates a dangerous blind spot for bus operators. TriMet could have chosen a high-mount mirror offered by the manufacturer that is suspended from above the driver’s side window, offering better visibility underneath the mirror for shorter drivers. However the larger mirror is more expensive, and TriMet chose the smaller, cheaper standard mirror.