Refocusing Portland’s Transit

Portland needs to bulk up appropriately on some of the bus lines really bad.  Portland is set for light rail, the streetcar is fine as long as it doesn’t eat up too much additional money, but the bus system really needs some TLC (tender loving car).  TriMet, the transit authority here in Portland, has long maintained a bare mediocrity of bus service.  I am not going to say cancel any light rail plans, but what I am writing now to advocate is to absolutely bolster bus service on primary corridors.  Some of these corridors would COVER THE COST OF THE ENHANCEMENTS as one of the lines actually turns a profit.

  • #72 – Bolster this with a few dozen 60’ buses, BRT style preferably.  15-20 Million.  This line, being that it actually is profitable on operations, leaves TriMet with absolutely ZERO reason to not upgrade the buses to something reasonable.  If they got some nice new, or even used BRT style buses of the 60’ range, ridership has a very high chance of increasing.
  • #9 – Don’t run frequencies of 4-5 minutes in the morning, instead, run more consistently scheduled and non-bunched 60’ BRT buses.  Simple provide service during rush hour every 10 minutes, during the day between 9am-4pm run 15 minute BRT service, and then after 6 pm until about 8pm, then switch to regular 40’ buses running every 15 until later at night, when eventually the schedule hits every 30 minutes about 10:30pm and then shuts down at about 1:00am.  18-24 million.
  • #4, #15, and over a dozen other east side buses should all have 60’ buses run during rush hour for at least 2-3 of the frequencies so frequency can be pushed out to reduce bunching, and increase capacity without having followers bunched with leaders empty.  The current method of trying to fill in the gap, is inefficient and doesn’t really provide increased ridership because a number of buses end up during rush hour undertilized while some are jam packed because of the bunching.  Easy fix $5-8 million or so per line.
  • Fix WES.  By that I don’t mean spend another penny on it.  What should be done is fixing up the stops according to their transfer points.  TriMet really didn’t finish the bus stops according to what I believe most people thought would be done.  The transfers are difficult at all TriMet transfer points.  In Tigard, the transit center is kind of just “blagh”.  It needs life, rezoned, and fixed.  This can help WES and every single line that comes into Tigard.  Same goes for the other stops such as the silliness at Tualatin.  One doesn’t even see the bus stop without diligently searching for it.  Total cost about $18-120 million.  From that estimate one can guess, the west side needs some serious help with the buses.

These fixes should be pushed up in priority, otherwise I do see a point when TriMet will hit a serious functional breaking point and possibly even litigation if they don’t actually serve routes as they could actually be serving them per demand.  If TriMet experiences another ridership boom on the primary arterials going into Portland (#9, #4, #15, #14, etc., etc) the uproar will absolutely get louder.  To not prepare, and encourage ridership in the meantime is absolutely neglectful of the duties TriMet is created and responsible for providing.  Being that it is ridiculously cheap and there are pro-transit leaders in Washington, the reasons not to build out appropriate bus routes for the future is relatively nonexistent.

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