Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Bus Planning

In the coming months Trimet is going to be putting together a bus plan for the redundant service along the new corridor. The simple reasoning is that buses cost more to operate over time than light rail, a lot more, and the ideal situation is to get as many people to take the light rail and operate feeder service to get people to the light rail. This is a tricky process, here’s a few of the reasons why:

  • Some bus lines would be more logical, like the #33, the stop in Milwaukie or the last stop of the PMLR line and transfer all passengers to a waiting MAX train. The MAX won’t have traffic to battle, will have an easier and faster ingress trip and egress trip out of the city. Timing the connection with the #33 will be really easy, as the service can now operate as an extension of the light rail service instead of fighting with traffic on McLoughlin (the bulk of its trip between Portland and Milwaukie). So a large part of the #33 route could be canceled, saving millions per decade and putting that money into other bus operations and capital such as the #33 between Oregon City and Milwaukie.
  • Other bus lines get tricky, the #19 for instance will cross over (with its current route) the new MAX at one of the stations. But the route on either side of that serves people that may or may not be going downtown. Beyond that, making connections with the MAX is more difficult because of its less than frequent service and which direction would connect with which MAX? The #19 wouldn’t just be merely an extension, but instead would act largely like a feeder. An example would be, if someone got on in the suburbs, instead of riding the whole route it would be faster to deboard and alight the coming MAX train, that would arrive in town faster and more reliably than the #19 bus would. This route then becomes a question of, “what to do?” Increase service? Leave it untouched? Decrease service between X & Y points, increase service immediately between MAX connection points to enable better connector service?
  • #31 and #32 both come from various parts of the metro area and converge on McLoughlin, again making for a perfect direct connection with the MAX. However both buses are arguably faster during low traffic times and slower during higher traffic times. Both bus routes are generally low ridership, so connecting the transfers to the MAX might behoove costs, but maybe not ridership. It however could have the opposite affect on ridership and increase. Would having the end points connected between Clackamas Town Center (where one of the buses goes) vs. where the other goes be improved if we bumped up service levels and connected it reliably to the MAX line going in? What would be the loss vs. the gain of doing so? Whatever the case, it isn’t smart continuing to run these two routes as is when the MAX line offers a lower cost option than running the bus just for the few riders that do take it along the McLoughlin Corridor – in this case, one would logically try the increased connector service but eliminate the service along McLoughlin into downtown. This would create a two-seat (ie. a transfer is required) ride to downtown but it would make for a dramatically more cost efficient ride if the ridership stays relatively the same on these routes or slightly increases. If it increases dramatically it would still be best to transfer riders to the MAX instead, as more service could be provided overall.

Have you thought much about how the service will change, what might change, or thought about getting involved? If any of these buses are ones you ride you should check out the upcoming bus service planning around the opening of the PMLR line. You can’t wait and expect to make a difference, you have to get involved now! Here’s a list of the lines that will be affected with the opening of the PMLR in 2015 (and possibly sooner even).

  • 9-Powell Blvd
  • 17-Holgate/Broadway
  • 19-Woodstock/Glisan
  • 28-Linwood
  • 29-Lake/Webster Rd
  • 30-Estacada
  • 31-King Rd
  • 32-Oatfield
  • 33-McLoughlin
  • 34-River Rd
  • 35-Macadam/Greeley
  • 36-South Shore
  • 43-Taylors Ferry Rd
  • 66-Marquam Hill/Hollywood
  • 70-12th/NE 33rd Ave
  • 75-Cesar Chavez/Lombard
  • 99-McLoughlin Express
  • 152-Milwaukie
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6 Comments

  1. One of the biggest problem with TriMet’s service planners is the major catastrophe of a mistake that they made in the early 80s as the Banfield Light Rail project was approaching completion. They had an opportunity to break up their “spoke and hub” system, where every single bus (just about) served downtown Portland, and replace it (on the East side of the river, at least, where MAX would actually be running then) with a “backbone” (the MAX line) and “feeders” that connect to MAX, thereby increasing the overall service capacity, and leading to a potential of 3-boarding trips to get from point A (your home) to point B (your place of business). Although the initial system was limited in only serving the East side, these other changes could have been cascaded into place as the system has expanded.

    Another major issue with MAX is the fact that it is not, nor has it ever been ‘rapid’ transportation. With a self-imposed limitation of maximum train length of 200 feet (formerly subject to negotiation with the City to close streets downtown to accommodate longer consists), they intentionally planned and built the Washington Park platform to only accommodate two-car trains. A stop every 700 feet in downtown Portland (and out to Lloyd Center) is an equally dumb planning move. From Hollywood/NE 42nd Ave to about E 181st Ave, stop spacing is reasonable; on the Westside, once you get past Beaverton TC, the stops are again too close together (especially in Hillsboro, where again, there is a stop roughly every 800 feet).

    Some of these mistakes we have to live with (consist length, distance between stops); others can be fixed (eliminate the hub/spoke system in favor of “neighborhood” transit). If all the service that parallels MAX was redesigned for service into the neighborhoods, TriMet could ultimately increase its service footprint, and save money, without needing to do anything else.

    Reply

    1. Some Guy – you didn’t answer a single question I asked in the blog entry. Nor did you offer any actual advice or plans in how to work the buses around the PMLR.

      Light rail naysayers, such as yourself (and sometimes me) have plenty of ammo, as do the proponents (which I’m also one sometimes). However, this blog entry was not about that. It is about what to do with the bus routes. Got any ideas, thoughts or suggestions regarding that? We can’t change what was built over the last 30 years, but we can guide the future of things if more people actively get involved, become knowledgeable about these things and get into positions of authority. It’s the only way we prevent past mistakes in future endeavors.

      So… ideas? Thoughts on that list of buses?

      Reply

      1. While I may not have directly answered any of the questions you posed, I did offer insight into what will happen regardless of input from the community. The 33 will likely continue to operate (although renamed/rebadged in some fashion) all the way into downtown Portland, although likely (such as the 58) not on a “frequent” schedule.

        I also don’t understand your comment about being a light-rail “naysayer”; light-rail in general is not bad, however some of the decisions made in the 80s are continuing to force bad decisions today, even with improvements in technology and urban planning. Mostly, I was pointing out some of the historic “mistakes” that have been made as an eye towards what is to come. Without taking this completely off the topic, we all know that TriMet is loath to accept public input in a meaningful fashion, especially as regards service planning.

        9-Powell Blvd
        17-Holgate/Broadway
        19-Woodstock/Glisan
        No meaningful changes will occur. Ideally, these would have been broken up with the establishment of Banfield LRT into one or more “cross” or “loop” lines. I don’t see anything significant happening with these lines. If I was king/emperor for a day, all three of these would be broken up (no more “through-routing”) and turned into north-south feeders for the Banfield and east-west feeders for the PMLR line, providing “connector” service to LRT instead of competing with it (see my original comment).

        36-South Shore
        66-Marquam Hill/Hollywood
        70-12th/NE 33rd Ave
        75-Cesar Chavez/Lombard
        35-Macadam/Greeley
        43-Taylors Ferry Rd
        None of these will likely see any changes directly related to the PMLR line, however, some of them could have been stubbed at the Moody TC (if it had been designed and built as a TC). Perhaps the OMSI TC will offer some options for these but I don’t think that is likely.

        28-Linwood
        29-Lake/Webster Rd
        31-King Rd
        34-River Rd
        I don’t see any significant changes coming to any of these. They already serve neighborhoods in northern Clackamas County and will already connect to PMLR (as well as the Green Line for all but the 34). If anything I think we will see (and I would advocate for) service increasing on these lines. The 31 will likely no longer serve downtown Portland and that’s not a bad thing.

        32-Oatfield
        33-McLoughlin
        These two lines (with the historic 31 Estacada) have historically been “redunant” service, allowing TriMet to claim that McLoughlin Blvd is a “frequent service” corridor during peak service. These should connect to the end of the PMLR line and provide service into other neighborhoods along the McLoughlin corridor.

        30-Estacada
        99-McLoughlin Express
        152-Milwaukie
        Kill the “loop” of the 30 between Clackamas Town Center and downtown Milwaukie. Run the 99 from Park Ave to Clackamas TC, but making only every 4th or 5th stop along the way (historic “Limited Stop” service). I’m not familiar enough with the 152 to make any useful suggestions there.

  2. Great comment. Interesting thoughts. As for labeling you a “naysayer” of light rail, my apologies, I get so used to being bombarded with comments regarding light rail from some that are clearly naysayers. They have a a total detest of light rail in almost all situations.

    Even though you point out that some poor planning decisions made Portland’s Light Rail much less than it could be, it’s still a pretty good system compared to many cities (especially in the US, where service is basically non-existent).

    Cheers and thanks for the comment! I’ll add more to this soon about what I’m pondering myself.

    Reply

  3. The only real change that will be necessary (and its HUGE) is to end bus service from Milwaukie to Portland. The buses will no longer need to leave that side of the Trimet service area. Theoretically it should improve reliability of the buses since they won’t get stuck in Portland traffic.

    The question is, HOW MANY BUS TRIPS ARE MADE FROM MILWAUKIE TO DOWNTOWN PDX?
    It must be more than 100.

    Reply

    1. I just went through the list and it looks like there would be zero reason for the #31, #32 and #33 to serve between Milwaukie and Portland. Just looking at the maps from those routes here:

      http://www.trimet.org/schedules/r032.htm
      http://www.trimet.org/schedules/r031.htm
      http://www.trimet.org/schedules/r033.htm

      All three of these routes are redundant and could be synchronized with the Milwaukie stop. If the timing, which shouldn’t be to hard to do, was correct it’d actually be more timely and efficient to transfer to the light rail.

      The #75 and #70 routes are so close, paralleling the light rail that they should be moved slightly away or at least moved onto the light rail to serve as better feeder routes.

      I know the #30, #99 and #152 are probably much loved by a few people, but in all seriousness, they’re horribly inefficient routes and should likely be canceled. The Estacada is often subsidized at a higher rate that the WES, the 99 and 152 aren’t much better. I’d hate to cute straggler service like that, but in all seriousness, I’m not sure any of these benefit the overall metropolitan area. They do NOT maintain a baseline of service.

      30-Estacada
      99-McLoughlin Express
      152-Milwaukie

      As for…

      36-South Shore
      66-Marquam Hill/Hollywood
      35-Macadam/Greeley
      43-Taylors Ferry Rd

      I have no idea why they’re even on the list. They serve nobody even remotely close to the PMLR.

      As for these
      9-Powell Blvd
      17-Holgate/Broadway
      19-Woodstock/Glisan

      …they should probably be located on the upper PMLR route into downtown (on Lincoln Avenue) but beyond that they should only have increased service. Arguably #9 route should remain completely untouched except for possible increased service, especially considering it will act as a feeder to the light rail and is already at or beyond capacity many hours of the day.

      The #17 and #19, albeit nowhere near the capacity or demand of the #9 serve good arterials and if anything should have increased service along the western & northern stretches of their routes that connect to the light rail. They’ll act as feeders and likely provide riders to the light rail and act as extensions in some ways to the light rail.

      As for…
      28-Linwood
      29-Lake/Webster Rd
      34-River Rd

      …I don’t even have the slightest. I honestly didn’t even realize these routes existed. They have effectively zero to do with Portland and everything to do with Clackamas County, thus I’ve kind of ignored more of the nonsense that has come from the political leaders of Clackamas since they don’t seem to have a strong understanding of what is actually going on in their county or Multnomah.

      Reply

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