Portland OKs public transportation plan to reduce congestion, keep city moving

Data shows that buses are getting stuck in traffic and trips are taking longer, negatively affecting service. (KATU Photo)

As if traffic isn't bad enough, statistics show it's only going to get worse.

Over the next 20 years, Portland is projected to add 140,000 new jobs and more than 260,000 people.

To avoid total gridlock, Portland City Council directed the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Thursday, to develop new public transportation strategies and expand on current ones to improve service and increase ridership.

It's called the Enhanced Transit Program (ETP).

"Buses and trains can move way more people in the same amount of space," Alan Kessler, an ETP supporter said. "As we're adding people to the city, whether we like it or not, its geometry just isn't there for all of these people to bring cars with them."

The project has a few goals:

  • Support planned growth in centers and along corridors consistent with the city’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan
  • Define and identify “Enhanced Transit Corridors"
  • Improve performance and efficiency on most used lines and to the entire transit system

Through research, PBOT found buses are a “work horse.” Some bus lines carry as many riders as MAX and Streetcar lines.

"I live 6 miles from town, but many days the bus is a faster alternative than driving because of traffic," commuter Michael Smith said. "This town has a fantastic investment in transit already, and I think maintaining it is priority number one, and expanding where it makes sense would be number two."

However, data shows that buses are getting stuck in traffic and trips are taking longer, negatively affecting service. It also showed that service will continue to deteriorate over time, unless the city and TriMet do something significant to prioritize transit, especially on key corridors.

"It (buses) runs 3 to 5 minutes late most of the time," TriMet rider Teodore Cripan said. "But, I've never really had an issue. I find transportation to be pretty good in Portland."

TriMet spends approximately $1 million to $2 million annually to add service just to keep buses on time. Streetcars experience similar issues.

Over the summer, PBOT will direct its consultant team to study up to three corridors, to identify what and where improvements can be made.

The three corridors include:

  • Line 72 – Killingsworth/82nd Ave, with a focus on 82nd Ave
  • Line 12 – NE Sandy Blvd
  • Line 6 – MLK Jr Blvd/Jantzen Beach (if resources allow)

In the future, PBOT also plans to consider safety and access needs in these three other areas:

  • Line 73 through the 122nd Ave Safety and Access Improvement Project planning process
  • Line 20 through an Outer SE Stark Safety and Access planning process
  • Key bottlenecks, including in the Central City

As a part of the of the Enhanced Transit Plan, consultants developed a traffic toolbox, which created 19 options to improve transit performance and create safer alternatives for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Dedicated bus-only lane
  • Business access and transit (BAT) lane
  • Intersection on queue jump/right turn except bus lane
  • Transit-Only aperture
  • Pro-time (peak period only) transit lane
  • Bus on shoulder
  • Muli-modal interaction
  • Bikes behind bus station
  • Left -side bike lane
  • Dedicated bike signal
  • Shared bus/bike zone
  • Stops and station
  • Curb extensions for stations/ stops
  • Level boarding
  • All-door boarding
  • Far-side bus stop placement
  • Bus stop consolidation
  • Operations/other
  • Rolling stock modifications
  • Street design traffic flow modifications
  • Transit signal priority and signal improvements
  • Headway management

PBOT also found new growth is happening in areas in need of better transit service and access.

The project, although, did receive some pushback.

Kem Marx, who represents Rosewood Initiative and the East Portland land use transportation community, opposes this project because it calls for bus stop consolidation.

"Elimination of bus stops is very detrimental to people who are most reliant on public transit," Marx said. "Those are people who are seniors, people with disabilities, mobility issues, mothers with children."

Portland City Council unanimously approved the directives and recommendations.

PBOT says it has limited sources of revenue and needs to identify priorities on where to start.

The public is welcome to send their comments to PBOT by email:

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