Mall Expansion, Green Line, & Bitching

As with all things, people will complain and a few will love it.  There is always something to complain about.  I admit, even I have complained about the Bus Mall design that is getting its final touches put on in downtown Portland.  I have to however, withdraw my original skepticism.  I think it is actually going to work much better than I originally anticipated.  I also admit, yeah, I’m often a bit more skeptical than I ought to be.


There are problems that will occur and I know the number one complaint already.  By my estimation and what I’ve heard so far is, “the bus doesn’t stop enough downtown”.  I’ve looked, and yeah, the stops are farther and fewer, for MAX and bus, but there is a reason.  TriMet is trying to fix the other huge and common complaint, “It takes 22 friggin’ minutes to get across downtown!”, and turn it into a more reasonable 15 minutes or so.  With the stops as they are, the future Milwaukee line and all the mall buses will finally be able to get through town in a much more reasonable time than the common complaint of 20+ minutes.

The Good Stuff

I’ve noticed, with the buses back in the more centrally located mall most people will see a few minutes knocked off of their walk to the office.  In addition to that many will see another few minutes knocked off of their actual bus commute, depending on how deep into downtown they have to come.

The MAX will also add a highly visible, more “out of town” friendly way to haul business cohorts and such around town.  The question is, will it stay that way.  The Yellow Line is commonly known as one of the less friendly MAX Trains.  Hopefully TriMet & Portland PD can keep it cleaned up and attractive along the new mall.  If so, the potential ridership of Green and Yellow is massive.

Problems & Good Green

I’ve recently rode out along the Green Line to Clackamas Town Center.  It raised a few questions.

  1. Why is the transit center located so far from the Mall?  Is it for the easy Interstate access?  I thought the point was to connect “town centers” with high throughput lines like the MAX.  This does the entirely opposite thing and encourages sprawl, so why?
  2. What is the intended TOD along the Green Line?  So far it appears there is an extreme minimum space to use for TOD, especially with 82nd already lined with business and life, of course, auto based business and such.
  3. If the ridership is 20-30k per day, where is this expected to come from?


  1. The Green Line makes absolutely no sense for every reason you’ve given. The whole point of light rail is to promote development (not ridership!) and then they put in the Green Line, so far removed from where the ridership is, and install a transit center removed from the destination for which it serves!

    (The Expo Center is another good example…why is the station nearly four city blocks away???)

    Yes, I-205 was built with room for a transitway…doesn’t mean that installing one made sense.

    As for bus stop spacing on the new Mall…well I have some real gripes about how TriMet did things. For example, the inbound 12 still stops on 4th Avenue right as it does today (not a bad thing, since there are several transit generators and it’s a decent stop location…and, OK, it’s right in front of my work). But the 94 will stop stopping there – and to ride the 94, I will have to walk **SEVEN BLOCKS** from the nearest stop. WTF? The 94, completely bypassing Portland’s largest transit generator (PSU)??? Again – WTF? (But outbound, the 94 will stop on the campus.)

    Southbound, the 1, 8, 12 and 94 are grouped together, as are the 9, 17, 19 – and 44? The 44 shares a route with the 1 and 12 but it stops at a different location?

    Again, WTF???

    The 12 and 94 share stops – that makes sense. But the 56 and 92 don’t – the 92 uses the crossmall route, but the 54/56 run up the mall. Huh? Same with the 43 and 45 which share the same route as the 44, 54 and 56 but use a different route in downtown.

    It’s as if the Red Line went north-south through the mall, but the Blue Line went west-east across the mall. Doesn’t make sense for MAX but how does it make sense for buses?


  2. The more this is panning out, I’m really not following the logic. Except what the real logic is…

    They (planners) haphazardly plan routes and try to get Federal money as quickly as possible. The second they get money they kick right in and build something, regardless of the overall city design or intelligence behind it. But inherently, it isn’t even the planners to blame completely, it is the system in which these transit ways are built. The funding, the motive, the politics, etc are all to blame.

    It won’t get fixed, so best we citizens can do is live our lives as efficiently as possible and hope the politicians don’t botch it up too badly. We really DO NOT have control over these things in our lives anymore. Hopefully at least pointing out some questions, some thoughts will at least get some brains thinking about it that have some pull. That way, at least something might get fixed or made more efficient.

    I got my fingers crossed, as always.


  3. “It takes 22 friggin’ minutes to get across downtown!”

    I thought that was a complaint about MAX (specifically between Goose Hollow and the Lloyd Center). But getting through downtown on a bus did seem to be slow, partly because serving each bus stop can also mean having to wait through a red signal afterwords. I’m not against increasing the stop spacing over the old two-block pattern, its just that I think 5 blocks is too far. (And there really isn’t a need for two-block spacing–even at three blocks, everyone coming from a side street would have no more than a one block walk on the mall to their bus stop.)

    Also, the mall stop groupings (and which buses don’t serve it) are probably based on bus volumes. It could be that there’s too many Barbur buses for them to all serve the same stop. And while the 92 does traverse the 56 route, I don’t think it shares ANY stops with it. They serve different passenger bases–if someone can ride the 92, they don’t want to ride the 56 since it serves all the stops and requires a transfer to the 62.

    "Doesn’t make sense for MAX"

    What’s wrong with providing more/different coverage? And the Green Line will run on the mall.


  4. "Also, the mall stop groupings (and which buses don’t serve it) are probably based on bus volumes. It could be that there’s too many Barbur buses for them to all serve the same stop."

    That’s inherently incorrect; the 94 has much more frequent service (when it runs) than the 12 bus. The 44 should rightfully be a Frequent Service bus (it has more boarding rides/operating hour than the 12) but is a 20 minute headway bus.

    As for the 56/92 — think about this. Yes, the 56 and 92 generally serve different riders. But let’s say you work a half day, or have to leave work early because of illness, child care issues, etc. The 56 will get you halfway on the 92 route, where you can easily transfer to a 62 to take you the rest of the way (at least within a few blocks.) Someone who is not super familiar with TriMet would expect to find buses in the same general area to serve the same downtown stops but in this case, someone waiting at a 92 stop will not get where they need to go.

    (Yes, I know, they COULD also take a Blue Line train to Millikan Way but this could require a long walk and/or multiple transfers. Routing the 56 and 92 buses together makes so much more sense and is CUSTOMER CENTRIC, not TriMet Operations and Management Centric.)


  5. "They (planners) haphazardly plan routes and try to get Federal money as quickly as possible."

    Excellent point; "change you can believe in" should require that new transit services be planned appropriately for current AND future development, ridership (current AND future) and compatibility with existing transit, not to maximize the grant application.


  6. "should require that new transit services be planned appropriately for current AND future development, ridership (current AND future) and compatibility with existing transit, not to maximize the grant application."

    That basically describe the entire operating procedure for public funded ventures, and thus my absolutely hatred toward subsidies. It is disturbing to say the least.


  7. I’m against subsidies too, but if we’re going to have to subsidize something at least make it fair and equitable. I have no problem with a minimum level of social services…but when transit projects are designed for property developers in mind – we have a problem. Public transit has a purpose in society and it’s to move people, not to help out a property developer whose one and only motivation is to maximize return on investment. He needs to play by the same rules I play by when I buy my house – I pay my share of taxes, I am not given huge governmental bailouts. My home is on an existing bus line; I don’t get to buy a house "on the condition that TriMet will extend a light rail line" to the house.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s