How Best to Improve Transit in Portland, Bus Studies

I’ve been scoping out various Portland routes, as has my girl Jo as she heads out via transit to work and such.  Here are some of the observations about the routes, what could be done to improve them and how they work great already.

#9 Powell/27th Saratoga – This is our main bus route into downtown Portland and pretty much the main connector to every other route we might also take somewhere.

  • The Bad:  This route is in desperate need of increased capacity during the rush hours.  Also the bunching that occurs causes the capacity to go down as the buses don’t always arrive in good consistent timings.  This route would be the prime route to bump up to light rail next.  I would strongly encourage Portland & TriMet to make this line a priority.  The development, ridership, and increased positive views TriMet could get from riders if this line was improved would be vast.  Technically, it is probably a better option for light rail than the current Milwaukee Light Rail effort.
  • The Good:  The bus line is a frequent service line, which during rush hours has about a dozen buses come by per hour giving us some great service in those hours.  The line also runs late into the night and the last bus into and out of downtown swings by around 1am.  The route as it exists is extremely useful and has huge ridership counts.
  • Route Summary:  As soon as possible bump the service levels between downtown and the I-205 stretch of the #9 route to light rail.  Just skip BRT, the LRT would immediately gain ridership far beyond what would be attained by BRT.  In addition the development potential for this route is great for BRT, and massive for LRT.  If light rail connected to the Green Line and into PSU & downtown it would most likely become the most ridden line in the city.  I’d bet a few grand on that easy.

#4 Division/Fessenden – This is our secondary route into and out of downtown, and to the lively Division Street stores and restaurants.

  • The Good:  There are literally over a hundred destinations along Division that this bus stops at between the east bank of the Willamette and 82nd.  In addition this bus cuts through downtown and heads north through the Rose Quarter and up along Mississippi, cutting across the Yellow Line MAX, and even further.  I’d have to say, this bus is connected to more cool stuff in Portland than any other route in the city, hand down!  The #4 also is a frequent service bus, but starts cutting out much earlier than the #9 and besides the rush hour, is not as heavily ridden after about 9pm.  Altogether though, it is an awesome route.
  • The Bad:  This is another route that could use larger buses during rush hour.  There really isn’t the space to place light rail or even BRT, that should be left to Powell & the #9 route.  However larger buses that could almost double the capacity, some dedicated ROW along some stretches, and better express type service to downtown along this route from 60th, 82nd, and beyond would do wonders for this route.  From riding it appears about 10% of the riders, especially during rush hour, are traveling form the far reaches of the route to downtown.  About 20% of the riders are close in and ride downtown and about 70% of the riders are in between short hops between 39th and Gresham.  Extremely hard to manage.
  • Route Summary:  Bump up to longer buses, maintain the same frequency and reduce bunching to eliminate unneeded runs.

Anyone else have any major routes they would like to see service fixed on.  Better yet, any props you want to send to TriMet for excellent service on a particular route or props to a driver or drivers on a route?  Let me know and we can work up some joint entries for cross posting.


  1. Your favorite bus routes should keep getting better, although frequency improvements will only come when it becomes a City of Portland priority. One great thing coming down the line is the new bridge for Milwaukie LRT, just south of OMSI. My understanding is that it will also carry buses. 9, 17, and 19 should all be able to use it, which would take these routes out of the slow and arduous Ross Island Maze.


  2. Yeah Jarret, the new Milwaukee Transit bridge will indeed carry buses. The #9, #17, and #19 as you state will travel the bridge with LRVs and Streetcars.

    I’m hoping though, that by the time they build the bridge I live back in downtown instead of the south east side – but it’ll definitely keep me traveling to the east side plenty to catch food, and spend $$ in those areas of the city. 🙂


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s