Dynamic Congestion Based BRT?

The downtown Portland transit mall is sort of like BRT.  It has dedicated right of way solely for use by the buses and light rail.  Outside of the transit mall we have several other places leading into town where the buses break off from traffic and are in bus only lanes.  These lanes work exceptionally well in most places.

Powell Street – Powell Street leading to the Powell and Milwaukee, and from Powell and Milwaukee to about 800ft. before the Ross Island Bridge both have areas of bus only right of way.  The lanes are however not separated by any physical device, and often there are wandering cars or trucks that roll into the lane causing delays and such.

Hawthorne/Madison – Leading up to the Hawthorne Bridge there is a lane for almost the length of Madison that has a bus only lane for certain hours of the day.  I believe it ends at 9:00am, but it also works very effectively against congestion.

I ponder where else there might be places for BRT style break outs like this.  Are there any other routes in the area that could directly benefit from dedicated lanes, or possibly even separated dedicated BRT style right of ways?


  1. I can point out TWO excellent places for BRT:

    1. McLoughlin from the Hawthorne Bridge to Milwaukie. This one is almost a natural, because it’s so easily possible, and there’s so many buses that already use it.

    2. Barbur from PSU to Barbur Transit Center. This one is just a little more difficult and would probably be a "BRT ‘Lite’" south of Burlingame where there isn’t as much room for another bus lane, but on the other hand this stretch of road is rarely congested enough to delay buses (which usually get delayed in Tigard). Today my 12 bus was delayed not because of traffic but because of a traffic signal gone haywire.

    These two projects would have been EXTREMELY low cost…I mean stupidly low cost. Just a few small investments in MAX style stations (complete with Transit Tracker signs, benches, full shelters, lighting) plus new BRT style buses would have a dramatic impact on these two routes, at a tiny fraction of a cost of even the cheapest rail line.

    The only drawback is that you would have more buses that would be more frequent – but on the other hand it wouldn’t require a transfer to leave the BRT corridor as the buses would simply drive off the BRT lane and on their regular routes. Just like how the MAX Blue, Red and Green Lines share a common route from Rose Quarter to Gateway, the multiple buses would do the same as well (just as they do today on those same roads).

    Another former good example would have been on the Sunset Highway pre-Blue Line MAX when there were a half dozen buses between Portland and Beaverton — however, even I admit that (although it was quite costly to build a tunnel) that there’s enough traffic Portland-Beaverton to warrant light rail. (Let’s face it, the freeway is four lanes in each direction and it’s congested, not to mention all of the surface streets as well.)


  2. Holy shitz, you admitted a use for light rail. Awesome. Yeah, that corridor along with the Banfield, has been amazing (unlike the Yellow Line). The only reason I give the Red Line props is because they basically got it built at a massive discount, minimal (or none?) federal funds, and mixed public private funding. They need to get MORE public private funds funneling in.

    Anyway, back to the main topic…

    1. What do you mean by a BRT bus? They don’t have to be for BRT, they can just be a whatever kind of bus. Are you just referring to larger capacity bus?

    2. For that route, if it will work BRT style they will have to build roadway, extensive roadway, on both of those routes. I assume you are saying that building the ROW would take the same area (generally speaking) as the current plans for the Milwaukee line. As for the Barbur to PSU line I’m not 100% sure about that route, I’d have to ride it again. I tend to avoid those SW routes – for various reasons. I do tend to frequent them a bit more in exploration, and will be sure to note the route.

    3. Both good suggestions I must say. Even though I don’t know the route, I know the Barbur Route has growth potential on a lot of it and fairly decent ridership on the various routes. I’ll have to look into it more.

    …I still say one of the most awesome things would be to see Division and/or Hawthorne, any of those EXCESSIVELY busy lines trade up to BRT along most of the routes. Screw a lane of traffic on both streets, the areas have proven to need little of it. Besides, removing a few dozen cars for super regular bus service on dedicated ROW would more than compensate in a short order of time. Especially if the routes where done up all proper and clean like.

    So I’d vote for your suggestion #2, Division, not sure about Hawthorne, and am not super motivated about anything going to Milwaukee. I see little reason to go down that way. I will admit there is probably more potential for the Milwaukee line than there ever is or will be for the Green Line.

    …anyway now I’m rambling.


  3. [i]What do you mean by a BRT bus? They don’t have to be for BRT, they can just be a whatever kind of bus.[/i]

    Bus manufacturers make vehicles better suited for bus rapid transit. The buses are low-floor and all the doors would be wide.

    They can be used in local service, if need be.


  4. So it stands still, I have no idea if Erik meant a 40′, 60′ or some other type of bus. Features are one thing, but BRT still doesn’t describe the primary characteristics well – i.e. seats & length.

    Thx for the tidbit though Wad.


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