February 13, 2012
Should the 70 Be Merged With the 9? Or the 73? Or Something Else?
One of the biggest changes recently proposed by TriMet is the idea of merging the 70 and the NE portion of the 9, creating a new crosstown route connecting Milwaukie, Sellwood/Westmoreland, the inner SE, Lloyd Center, and Alberta. There is map available here. The agency must have anticipated some pushback from riders of the 9 accustomed to a direct link to downtown, as they included this line at the end: "If lines 9 and 70 do not have their routes combined, an alternative may be to combine the Line 73 with Line 70."
Combining the 70 and 73 intuitively makes sense, as they are both currently crosstown routes and doing so would not take away anyone else's direct downtown service. As I discussed in my last post, the 73 is a poorly-designed route that attracts very little ridership compared to other routes in the NE. The 70 and 73 both make the largely pointless diversion west from Lloyd Center to Rose Quarter, a segment that could easily be deleted from both with little mobility loss.
So if that is the case, why not leave the 9 alone and combine the 70 and 73? The major problem with doing so is that TriMet is also proposing to cut evening and weekend service from the 73. This means that if the 70 and 73 were combined, the existing 70 would have to be cut as well, weakening a fairly successful line in the process. I'm not sure we want this new crosstown service if it barely runs often enough to be successful.
Let's try to attach some numbers to this.
Route 70 runs 104 one-way trips per weekday, 76 trips on Saturday, and 42 trips on Sundays.
Route 9 runs 106 trips per weekday day, and Saturday and Sunday each have 52 trips.
Route 73 runs 68 trips per weekday, 28 trips on Saturday, and 26 trips on Sundays.
One thing that immediately jumps out is that the 9 and 70 are much closer in terms of current service levels. The 70 has more trips on Saturday and fewer on Sunday, but total trips are fairly close. This may be why TriMet planners saw these as compatible routes to combine. The 73, by contrast, has much lower service levels than the 70. The 70 runs about 50% more trips on weekdays and more than twice as many on Saturdays.
If this change were not part of a budget-cutting process, the opportunity would be there to combine the 70 and 73 and give the whole new crosstown the same service levels of the current 70. This would probably be justified by the extra ridership attracted by a more useful route. However, in the current situation the danger is that they would just drop the 70 to the 73's service levels, decimating a currently useful and popular route in the process. This is especially the case given that cutting night and weekend service on the 73 is on the table.
To see if this is true, we have to see roughly how many service hours TriMet is trying to save with the proposed changes. This calculation will not be completely accurate, since I don't know the layover times for each route, but it should be fine for comparison's sake.
If the 70 and 9 are combined, some savings will come from deleted segments. The 70 will be deleted from Lloyd Center to Rose Quarter, saving about 5 minutes per trip. The 9 will be deleted from downtown to Lloyd Center, saving about 10 minutes per trip. Total savings will be about 159 hours per week. TriMet also wants to cut night and weekend service from the 73. This will end up cutting 12 trips per weekday and all trips on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 114 trips per week. Each trip takes about 30 minutes, so savings amount to 57 hours. Total savings from all three routes is about 216 hours, so that is the number to beat in any alternative.
So what if the 70 and 73 are combined and the 9 stays the same? Well, we still save on the deleted Rose Quarter segment of the 70, plus we can delete the same segment of the 73. This totals to 86 hours, still 125 hours short of the previous scenario. So how much would have to be cut from the new 70/73? It looks like we would need to cut about 136 trips from current levels to make it pencil out. To do so would basically require running the new route at current 73 service levels, meaning barebones weekend service and about 50% fewer trips each weekday. That or they could completely cut night and weekend service. Such a low level of service will not be sufficient on a crosstown route that will connect so many dense neighborhoods and destinations. The 75 and 72, comparable crosstowns, are two of the most successful routes TriMet runs, with high frequencies still often unable to keep up with demand.
So what is the lesson from all this? I would say the lesson is that there are good reasons for both TriMet and the public to prefer connecting the 70 with the 9 rather than the 73. Since service levels are similar, riders of both the 70 and 9 will not see a drop in frequency. True, riders of the 9 headed to downtown will have to transfer to MAX, or the streetcar, or the 8, or the 12, or the 19, or the 20, or the 15, or the 14, or the 4, and so on. Maybe you can see why I have a lack of sympathy for this plight. The incredible abundance of transfer opportunities to frequent services will make this about the easiest transfer in the whole system, most likely under 5 minutes most of the time except in the evenings or on weekends. If the 9 is protected from any change and the 70 and 73 are combined instead, the result will be either the creation of a very-infrequent new crosstown service, cuts to frequency on the 9, or a combination of both. We need to be honest about these tradeoffs.
Some people have also suggested merging the 8 with the 70 instead, since those would be more of a straight shot north. When TriMet first designed the grid decades ago, they actually wanted to do this very thing, but they back down under pressure from the Irvington neighborhood, which didn't want to lose their direct downtown service (sound familiar?). On the face of it this idea might not work in this situation, since the 8 has higher service levels than the 70, but it could work if structured correctly.
On that note, I would like to close with a not-so-modest proposal of my own: Move the NE portion of the 9 over to 33rd (with a connection to Concordia University), replacing the 73 with the 9, which would continue to go downtown. Merge the 8 and 70 to form a nearly perfect north-south crosstown. The portion of the 8 to Marquam Hill can be attached to the end of this new route on 33rd. By my calculations, doing this would save about the same amount of money as TriMet's proposal, it would keep frequencies intact, and the 70 could actually increase in frequency. The Alberta and Irvington neighborhoods would have direct downtown service on each side (MLK and 33rd), with crosstown service in the middle on 15th, with the plethora of transfer opportunities available. If we're going to have direct-to-downtown service anywhere in this area, 33rd also makes sense because it is in the middle of a large gap between MAX stations.
With this change there would be there would be a largish gap between the transit routes on 15th and 33rd, but that is not atypical in the Portland grid. This would also create a nice alternating sequence of downtown and crosstown routes, creating a more balanced system that doesn't overly favor downtown-bound riders over crosstown riders. The 9's route up Alameda Ridge has always been an oddity, running on tiny residential streets and switchbacking up the ridge at low speeds. I'm pretty sure frequencies are limited by the fact that the buses can't even pass each other on these streets. There is a reason most buses run on main arterial roads--they are wider and faster, have more businesses and other destinations in walking distance, and are easier to site stops and shelters. The NE tail of the 9 was an admirable effort to force a grid onto an area, but it really doesn't make sense when a perfectly good arterial with lots of business activity, NE 33rd Ave, is right nearby. It's time to try something bold and different that can retain maximum mobility and access in the face of these unfortunate service cuts.
February 13, 2012 10:28 AM
Does removing service from a rich neighborhood do as much for equity as adding service to a poor one?
February 13, 2012 12:12 PM
al m Says:
The 9 is a heavy use route isn't it?
Leave it alone!
How can you combine anything with an already packed line?
February 13, 2012 12:37 PM
No, that segment is not close to "heavy use" or "packed," although it does moderately well. You are probably thinking of the Powell segment. I will post ridership charts soon, but basically the NE segment never gets an average passenger load above 14, while the Powell segment tops out at around 23. Route 73, by contrast, has a top load of only 8 people.
A bus can seat about 30 people, and can actually carry about 50 at crush load, so there is plenty of room to combine the markets of the 9 and 73 in the way I describe, even in peak times (average loads on the 9 in the peak are barely any different than off-peak). Riders of the 9 would have to walk about 6 blocks over to 33rd, but as a reward they would have greater frequency and faster speeds.
I'm not under any illusion that this would ever happen, but I think people should think about the value of trading coverage for frequency in this way. Walking an extra five minutes, but not having to wait as long and having shorter transfers? That is usually a great trade-off because waiting and connections are the worst parts of using transit.
I suspect TriMet may back down on the 9 and combine the 70 and 73, and it's hard to see them cutting the 70 to 73 service levels, so the 9 will probably see a service cut instead, and might be permanently severed from the Powell segment (where they plan to run BRT eventually). In this case, residents along the 9 may realize too late that they have won a rather hollow victory, saving their downtown connection at the cost of frequency.
February 13, 2012 12:42 PM
A couple of thoughts: Crosstown lines generally need good anchors. 72 has excellent anchors on both ends (Clackamas TC and Swan Island), as does 75 (Milwaukie TC and St. Johns). The 6 (not a really a crosstown, though if you combine it with, say, the 17 it could be) also has a good anchor outside of downtown--Swan Island.
Right now, none of the 8, 9, or 73 has a good northern anchor. The 8 ends in an industrial area east of Hayden Meadows; the 9 ends near NE Dekum (though at a transfer point with the 75), and the 73 has an anchor of a golf course or two, Dignity Village and Columbia River Correctional Institute. None is a particularly strong anchor. Indeed, between PDX and Jantzen Beach/Expo, there really AREN'T any good anchors in northeast Portland, particularly north of Killingsworth/Lombard, as it's a mix of low-density industrial uses, golf courses, and such.
(As an aside: One possible explanation of its poor performance of the 73, perhaps, is that potential riders further south along the line know exactly where it goes to, and consider it a route to avoid for that reason? Equity concerns suggest that TriMet ought to serve destinations such as prisons, homeless camps/shelters, and other social services for the downtrodden, but it's patently obvious that the general public prefers not to mix in close proximity with the patrons of such facilities).
February 13, 2012 12:50 PM
The 9 has Concordia University, but from what I can tell it doesn't drive much ridership. Probably the best that could be done with the 73 to give it an anchor is to take it east to Parkrose TC.
February 13, 2012 2:10 PM
AL M Says:
I'm not sure about the 'anchor theory' on routes like the 75.
I haven't driven it in years but when I did by the time I got to both ends of it the bus was virtually empty.
Disconnecting the Powell from the Broadway eh?
So driving the 9 would mean always dealing with Powell Blvd!
What an exciting prospect if your a bus driver!
February 13, 2012 2:24 PM
So driving the 9 would mean always dealing with Powell Blvd! What an exciting prospect if your a bus driver!
That's why this route is the first candidate for BRT. It's an important corridor, but the traffic on Powell sucks pretty much round the clock. Wouldn't you love to be able to breeze past the cars in your very own bus lane, Al? It would be kinda like MAX, but with tires. :)
February 13, 2012 2:55 PM
The 75 actually gets pretty good ridership all the way to St Johns. Northbound, for example, a lot of people get off at the Yellow Line but a lot of other people get on. The bus has an average of about 15 people on board heading west from Interstate to St Johns, and most stay on board until the last several stops. The other end is a completely different story. Between Milwaukie and Woodstock there's only an average of about 5 people on board, with almost no ons or offs in that segment. That end might improve once Milwaukie has MAX service, though.
February 13, 2012 3:27 PM
Longer term, one other thought: In a few years, MLR will be complete. There will be some complaints from folks in Oak Grove, Gladstone, Oregon City, and points south about having to transfer from the 33 to the Orange Line when this occurs. Would it make since to combine the 70 with the 33 south of Milwaukie once MAX opens? Or switch the 70 and the 19 in Westmoreland? (And why are we sending #19 busses down 28th, Rex, and 32nd--a wealthy, low-density neighborhood?)
February 13, 2012 4:49 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
How was ridership on the 73 when it was the 10 thru downtown and out SE? Cutting it off at RQTC may have killed its ridership just as the 24 is a pale imitation of the old 33 Fremont.
The real anchor for the 72 in N. Portland is the MAX Yellow Line; ridership drops off from there to Swan Island...I regret to say. I think we have it because there is just no place to turn a bus around short of Anchor Street.
re Swan Island, the proposal is to cut mid day service on the 85 Swan Island which is used by a lot of UPS folks among others. Another option is to cut the second peak hour bus, so its a Sophie's Choice: 40-45 minute headways all day or 20 minute headways in the peaks with no service between 8:30am and 3 pm. I'm wondering how it could work to run one bus all day, but have it turn around at the Yellow Line at Prescott. That would get you 30-40 minute headways all day, but add a transfer to RQTC.
Depressing. I wish the Ops would share this burden a bit with their riders.
February 13, 2012 5:25 PM
As an aside, Lenny, I tend to consider the term "Sophie's Choice" in this context to be more than a bit on the offensive side. (The term refers to a novel and film, wherein a Jewish mother, played by Meryl Streep in the movie, is forced by the Nazis to pick one of her two children for execution upon the family's arrival to Auschwitz during the Holocaust).
Nothing TriMet is doing is remotely comparable to that.
February 14, 2012 12:32 AM
This is just my mostly uninformed opinion, but I'd suspect the low ridership on the 73 is due more to the low frequency and RQTC terminus (in roughly that order) than any neighborhood preconceptions about the current ridership. How many people are avoiding the 14 because it goes through Foster & 82nd?
For a trip to, say, Kennedy School from the bus mall, given the choice between getting to RQ and waiting for up to 30 minutes for a 73 or catching a relatively frequent 9 and walking the last few blocks to 33rd, I'd pick the 9 every time. Same thing going the other way, but with the added complication of the last RQ-bound 73 running at around 10pm. Even for a short, in-neighborhood round-trip from a hypothetical home near 33rd to New Seasons, it would probably be faster to walk to and from the 9 or 75 than wait for the 73.
Between the low frequency, the nothing-there-there southern endpoint, and the close proximity to better alternatives, it makes sense that the 73 has poor ridership. Increase frequency and connect it to another route or send it down the bus mall, and ridership would probably increase.
I'm almost thinking that flipping the NE segment of the 9 and the 73, then applying the proposed 73 cuts to the new-73/old-9 (and leaving the 70 alone) might be the way to go. Under TriMet's proposal, the only direct downtown service east of 15th Ave and north of Broadway would be the 12-Sandy, and, even then, only east of 39th.
Not-totally-relatedly, I think some of the Portland Transport community might have drunk enough of the equity kool-ade that even OPAL might tell you to cut back a little.
To me, "transit equity" means things like (compared between the "poor", "rich", and "middle" parts of town), equal bus headways, equally direct routes to major destinations, equal distances between stops/bus routes, no excessive forced transferring, etc.
Yeah it's crappy that someone can go from Beaverton to Hillsboro for the same $2.10 you paid to ride 20 blocks to the Freddy's, but you're (currently) getting a round trip out of that ticket while the HillsBeavertonian probably isn't. Sometimes equity just means equally unfair.
February 14, 2012 8:10 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
OK, poor choise of words. I know this is no life and death deal...give me a break! And I know from whence the phrase comes, but the term has come to mean two lousy options, which is what we have on Swan Island. Sorry I can't get some thoughtful replies to our quandry.
re the 9 or 73 joining the 70 question. The latter two now end at the RQTC (the 9 stays on Bway to downtown), so joining them seems obvious with some 70s turning around at Lloyd MAX Station, just as some 9 Powell buses turn around downtown.
February 14, 2012 10:18 AM
speaking of the 24- I have considered an idea that would make this connect from its western terminus across the freemont bridge to goose hollow. Kind of a NE/SW express for that segment. I know we aren't allowed to add hours in the math right now, but isn't this an intriguing cross-town option?
my first comment looks dumb when I read it now btw
February 15, 2012 2:11 AM
A part of me would not like to see the tail end of the 70 from the Lloyd Center to Rose Quarter cut. I myself take that, and there are always a few people who ride from the Lloyd Center (and even points south) all the way to the end to connect with the Yellow Line.
On the other hand, combining the 70 with the 9 would probably be a good idea overall. Crosstown routes are some of the most useful, and with this arrangement, I could still make the trip I need to make with one fewer connection. Not a bad thing, I think! I'd vote for it. I hope it goes that way. If they cut service on the 70, a lot of people are going to be pissed. It's not a crush-load line (thanks the gods), but it is well used all week and at all times of the day. If anything, it has potential for future expansion. Maybe with the merger, they could continue the line down Columbia to either Lombard TC or the Kenton-Denver MAX stations on the Yellow Line to have some kind of anchor.
That's my two cents.
February 17, 2012 9:35 AM
I like your idea of combining the 8 and the 70. I would hate to see service levels fall even further for what is basically the only direct bus route from NE to Sellwood/Westmoreland, and the only N/S route in the "no man's land" (for public transport, at least) between Cesar Chavez Blvd and Grand/MLK (70).
It seems like combining the 9 and the 73 could work, but, similarly, the 73 is virtually the only way to get to certain portions of industrial N/NE Portland, and it's also the route that runs closest to the highly trafficked Oregon Humane Society on NE Columbia (with 1500 volunteers and tens of thousands of yearly visitors). I am a frequent rider of the 73 and while it isn't heavily used above Killingsworth, it would be a shame to lose the service. And to the comments regarding the correctional facility and Dignity Village, as a young woman, I've never had a single issue riding the 73, even coming home late (well, as late as it runs). While I use the 73 to get to my volunteer job, it is important to offer service to those other institutions for those who may not have any other means of transport. What I'm getting at is, I would think the 9 and the 73 would make for a good combined route, as long as the destinations above Killingsworth remained on the route.
February 17, 2012 9:41 AM
Does removing service from a rich neighborhood do as much for equity as adding service to a poor one?"
Which "rich" neighborhood are you referring to? Irvington, Sullivan's Gulch, or the areas between NE Grand and 9th, all of which have many rental units and a very mixed residency? While we're on the topic, why don't we eliminate all of the umpteen lines that run through the Pearl or up to NW 23rd, since those are "rich neighborhoods"?
-Signed, a very much not rich Irvington resident
February 17, 2012 11:48 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Well the 17 into NW is on the chopping block.
Ridership should drive service cut questions, not income levels of residents. I believe the 9 in NE is healthy...its the route of the original Broadway streetcar line. It parallel's the new Streetcarline for just a few stops between 7th Avenue and the Broadway Bridge and has an excellent connection to Union Station. The 73 has sagged since it was cut off from downtown and SE; it seems like a better mate to the 70 for an inner SE/NE crosstown line.
February 17, 2012 1:47 PM
Nick theoldurbanist Says:
"The 73 has sagged since it was cut off from downtown and SE..."
>>>>> Well, the 73 (which used to be the 10) was cut back from downtown when those damn MAX tracks were installed on 5th & 6th Avenues. Now there wasn't enough capacity for all of the bus lines that used to run down the old bus mall, so some lines got the shaft.
This is just another example of how new MAX lines have screwed transit users.
February 17, 2012 2:48 PM
Wait, I thought they split the 10 and 73 because of service cuts, not because of bus capacity problems on the transit mall. Can someone confirm or deny?
February 17, 2012 5:05 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Probably some of both. The 10 as a thru bus line was not a top performer as I recall. What is wrong with the 73? It serves employers out beyond Columbia Blvd, runs on busy NE 33rd past Kennedy School, New Seasons and Grant HS. It serves high density Goose Hollow and runs thru the heart of Lloyd District. It needs a Friends of the 73 to promote it, get businesses to offer discounts (first beer free at Kennedy with a ticket or pass); or offer employees transit subsidies. Or what?...hook it up with the 70.
February 17, 2012 7:03 PM
Nick theoldurbanist Says:
Well, the 44 in N/NE Portland is not a top performer either, but it kept its through routing with the PCC Sylvania segment.
And the 14 is a top performer, but was cut back to a loop along Main & Madison Streets, thus depriving hundreds of riders of their one-seat ride along SW 5th & 6th Avenues up past Pioneer Courthouse all the way to Union Station. That I also blame on MAX taking away bus capacity along the transit mall.
February 17, 2012 7:46 PM
Bob R. Says:
Nick, you made these assertions back in 2010 and we had a big go-around about it.
TriMet's claim at the time of mall construction was that the transit mall with light rail could support 130 buses per hour. This was disputed in part by AORTA and others but still in the high 120's. This was in the DEIS at the time, around 2006, although right now I can only find an older version of it. So you'll have to take my word for it until I find a copy.
We are nowhere near 130BPH at peak, not even 120BPH. If there's buses that aren't running on the mall right now or have been pared back, the reason is NOT a capacity constraint of the mall.
(Not to mention, people ride trains as buses. They aren't exactly empty. The People-Carrying capacity of the mall has increased, not decreased.)
February 17, 2012 8:13 PM
Nick theoldurbanist Says:
Alright, then Trimet should put the 14 back to at least Union Station - the current loop is very inconvenient for a lot of riders, myself included.
February 17, 2012 9:05 PM
Bob R. Says:
Typo: I should have said "trains as well as buses".
February 19, 2012 11:17 AM
Cameron Johnson Says:
I'm surprised but glad that I was not the only one to think of combining the 9 and 73. I don't like the idea of taking away service from a large stretch of road, but personally I find the 24th/27th corridor highly dangerous and problematic. I've born witness to several near misses in the corridor; 40 foot buses are essentially running down a residential road for nearly two miles, and oftentimes having to somehow pass each other on the same road. The intersection at Killingsworth, which involves a soft left to cross back onto 27th is crazy as well. I've been on a bus that had spent five minutes backing up and readjusting itself to get through (meanwhile blocking traffic). I think that combining the two and bringing better service to 33rd avenue would ultimately be a better, safer option.
As for the 8 and 70, I thought it over myself, but ye biggest obstacle is that oftentimes I've seen wheelchair equipped riders and several others board in NE Portland and ride through to downtown and OHSU- one of the few routes that utilizes its two route corridor for connections from one side to another. It still could happen, though, if line 9 were to combine with the 8, but I'm not sure myself. If the 8 were to switch out with the 6 and end at Jantzen Beach, that would provide a strong anchor. I do believe that line 6 should not be short-lined away from Kenton due to the connection at Lombard/Interstate and the Kenton community/Library from the ever-busy MLK corridor.
Those are just my two cents though. Also, I believe the term is "Hobson's Choice." ;)
February 20, 2012 9:28 AM
I've found out from the open house that I went to is that Route 9 will Not combined with route 73. Strong opposition prohibits this practice. (people on the powell line don't want to change buses at Milwaukie/Powell. Instead route 70 will combined with Route 73 which means it will not serve RQ at all. It may do minor rerouting through Lloyd District and move along. By combining 2 routes service levels will be the same. (20 min frequency daily, 30 sun/nightly).
Route 9 will remain the same, however, may only go downtown.
February 20, 2012 9:34 AM
I've did ride 9 powell/broadway from powell side all the way to Concordia University. It's heavily packed on the powell line until it reaches PSU, by the time it arrives around 24/broadway, very few riders. (I'm only taking about the service during the mid-day, not peak hours). I have seen crush loads on the Broadway line during commuter hours. They should possibly reroute parts of the route. Once it passes 29/Skidmore, it travels on a very narrow road on 27th.
February 20, 2012 4:36 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
9 Broadway ridership from inner NE out is stronger than the 73, hence the suggestion that the latter would be better mated with the 70 at Lloyd Center, with some 70's turning around there. OTOH, 70 to the RQTC makes a good connection to the 85 Swan Island, so maybe not.