Digging Into TriMet’s Proposed Service Changes: Washington County Edition

Last month, Zef covered in detail TriMet’s proposed service changes to both NE and NW Portland. (He also had some additional thoughts on the cuts as a whole over at Portland Afoot, see also here). Zef is unfamiliar with Washington County, so we agreed that I would do the article about the proposed changes affecting Beaverton and Hillsboro instead.

The changes

Here is TriMet’s map of the proposed service changes; click on the thumbnail for a full-sized edition:

map-beaverton-proposed.gif

The major cuts can be summarized as follows:

  • The 67-Jenkins/158th will no longer run to Beaverton Transit Center; instead it will end at the 158th/Merlo MAX station. Some stops on SW Jenkins will lose bus service. (I assume it will be renamed something else, such as the 67-158th/Bethany)
  • The 89-Tanasbourne will cease to exist; its function will be taken over by the 48-Cornell and the 47-Baseline/Evergreen, which instead of ending at Willow Creek Transit Center, will continue to Sunset TC. The 48 will take the southern leg of the 89 (staying on Cornell) whereas the 47 will serve NW Bronson and NW Oak Hills. Both routes will run between downtown Hillsboro and Sunset TC, bypassing Willow Creek entirely. The combined 48 will have seven day service (as did the old 89; previously the 48 did not run on Sundays); the 47 will continue to have weekday-only service (in essence, the Bronson and Oak Hills deviations will lose weekend service).

The theme

If there’s a theme that links these proposed changes to the northeast changes, it could be the concept of building the grid. One of the best topologies for transit is the high-frequency grid, where a network of lines in a rectangular grid pattern serve in area in a fashion similar to blocks in a street grid. Assuming that parallel routes are adequately spaced (so that patrons can walk to either a N/S line or an E/W line, assuming the grid is aligned with the cardinal directions), it is theoretically possible to make any trip with only a single transfer.

In areas with sparse transit coverage, however, the best transit topology is the pulse or star topology. In this arrangement, transit lines run between a small set of transfer points (generally corresponding to “transit centers” in TriMet terminology), with timed transfers occurring at these nodes, and bus lines scheduled to converge upon the nodes at the same time. This is the best way to make low-frequency services which require transfers work. One drawback with the pulse network is it produces redundant service around the nodes, limiting the geographical area which can be covered with a certain number of service hours.

In NE Portland, the network is mostly a grid; but Rose Quarter TC contains a few pulse elements. In particular, the 73 and the 70 both deviate west to terminate at the TC; the new routing removes this deviation. As the combined 70 intersects with MAX, which runs at five-minute headways in this part of town, and there are plenty of other frequent-service lines in the inner city, this isn’t really a problem.

In Washington County, the TriMet network is more pulse-like. Other than MAX and the 57 (and unofficially, the 76/78 multiplex between Beaverton TC and Washington Square), none of the routes are frequent service. Most of the bus routes run between transit centers, and some circulator routes (such as the 53) serve the same TC at both ends. The transit centers of note in the Beaverton area are Sunset, Beaverton, Willow Creek, and Washington Square.

Both of the proposed service changes, on the surface, represent a migration away from a pulse network to a grid. In order to save service hours, deviations of bus lines from their nominal route to the nearest TC are being eliminated. Is this a good thing?

It depends.

The analysis

The good news is that the new 48 will be a far stronger line than either the old 48 or the 89. Cornell Road is–or ought to be–an excellent transit corridor; one that by rights should perform better than TV Highway. Among the destinations along the corridor are the county seat, two full-service hospitals (and a third to open next year), several Intel facilities, the county fairgrounds, Hillsboro Airport, the Orenco development, the Tanasbourne development, OHSU’s Washington County complex, numerous major retail destinations, a Krispy Kreme, the Cedar Mill neighborhood (and the Science Park industrial complex), and the Peterkort development. With a line providing seven-day service the length of the corridor, I predict that the line will prosper.

The route of the 47 is not a strong corridor; on the other hand. It’s new route will be rather serpentine. The western half (serving Evergreen Parkway, then dropping down at Orenco to Baseline) isn’t too bad, but east of Tanasbourne, the line is weak–redundant with the 48 other than a few deviations. I wonder if it might have been better to create a new northern line out of this and the 50.

The truncation of the 67, as it stands, is unfortunate. Unlike the 47/48/89 and 70/73 combos, where disconnected feeder routes were combined into stronger corridors, there isn’t a southern line to connect the 67 to–it will simply stop at the Merlo MAX station (a weak stop that gets frequent mention when the subject of closing MAX stations comes up). In the comments for the bus savings article, I suggested a way to extend the 67 down to Tigard, combining it with fragments of the 92 and 45; a simpler combination with just the 92 to Washington Square might be possible as well.

The caveats

There is one major caveat with all this grid-giddiness. In the enthusiastic discussion of grids above, the word “grid” was necessarily preceded by the qualifier “high frequency”. For grids to be an effective transit topology, they have to be frequent–30 minute or so headways at worst. (They also have to be available whenever the transit system is running–for TriMet, that means seven days a week). Timed connections in a grid are pretty much impossible, so the connectivity that makes grids work depends on frequency. A grid of busses that comes once an hour isn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, if current service levels on the affected lines are an indication, the Washington County grid may leave something to be desired.

If TriMet’s adaptation of a grid topology represents a commitment to improved service frequencies when more operating funds becomes available; this is probably a good time as any to make the change. Nobody will complain if frequency is added in the future; but it’s hard to make these sorts of changes in good times. If, on the other hand, the changes are only about the appearance of quality transit, then not so much. Only time will tell.

If TriMet is committed to building a grid in Beaverton (along with Gresham, Beaverton is probably the most transit-friendly of cities not named Portland in the TriMet service district), there’s a few other changes it might consider:

  • Rather than ending the 48 at Sunset TC, continue it along Barnes Road to downtown, replacing the 20. The 20-Burnside/Stark is one of the longest lines in the system, and it shortlines downtown anyway (many mid-day busses turn around at JELD-WEN Field rather than continuing over the West Hills); I think it would be useful to have the western terminus of the 20 be downtown, and have the 48 run between the Transit Mall and Hillsboro.
  • Of course, if you do that, than you need a new line to serve Cedar Hills Boulevard. A new line, which leaves BTC heading north on Cedar Hills, serving the Cedar Hllls and Peterkort neighborhoods, and possibly heading west on Burton/Oak Hills or West Union (and possibly replacing the eastern half of the new 47) would be beneficial
  • Another option for serving the Oak Hills neighborhood would be for the 62, rather than turning east on Cornell and heading to Sunset TC, to head west on Science Park Drive and then north on NW 143rd for a spell. Or, the 62 (which runs half-hourly) could simply turn around at Cedar Mill, and the service hours currently used to get between Sunset TC and Murray Blvd could be spread out over the entire Cornell corridor to improve frequency on the 48.
  • One other suggestion: If TriMet ever finds the budget to upgrade the 59-Walker/Park Way to more than just peak hour service, connecting it to the western half of the 47 makes more sense.

Thoughts?

7 Comments

7 Responses to Digging Into TriMet’s Proposed Service Changes: Washington County Edition

  1. EngineerScotty
    April 11, 2012 at 10:08 am Link

    One other thought: Have the 62 continue up 143rd to Oak Hill, west on that to Bethany, and then north to PCC Rock Creek following the current 67. Re-route the 67 down Bronson. Short stretches of Bethany and 153rd would lose direct service, but other lines would still be within walking distance.

  2. Josh
    April 11, 2012 at 10:20 am Link

    Speaking of the 76/78 multiplex, since the 78-Lake Oswego sometimes shortlines between Beaverton TC and Tigard TC as it is, how about re-signing all 76/78 service between those TCs as the 76? (That might not be enough to make the 76 a proper frequent service line, but it should be close.) The 78 could then run between Washington Square TC and Lake Oswego, taking over the Washington Square TC-Tigard TC portion of the 45.

  3. Alexander Craghead
    April 11, 2012 at 11:42 am Link

    First, technically, there’s three more Washington County FS lines: 12 (of course, the big one,) and 54/56.

    As for adjustments to 76/78, the pre recession plans were:
    • Upgrade 76 to FS.
    • Reroute 38 to run up Bonita Road and Hall to Tigard TC.

    There’s also been long-term pressure to get TriMet to provide service to Metzger up Hall, possibly by rerouting the 78 between Tigard TC and Washington Square via Hall Boulevard.

    Personally, I’d like to see:
    • 45 truncated at Washington Square. Its circulator route past there is silly and garners few riders.
    • 62 rerouted from Murray Hill down Murray and Walnut and into Tigard TC, thus replacing most of the lost segment of the 45 and establishing more grid style routing.
    • 56 extended to Murray Hill thus replacing the lost segments of 62.

    I’ve also often wondered about the 44 at its present end at PCC Sylvania, and if an extension might make more sense. Tigard TC, Tualatin WES, and Lake Oswego all seem attractive possibilities.

  4. EngineerScotty
    April 11, 2012 at 11:58 am Link

    I’d love to see the 44 extended down Kerr Parkway to Boones Ferry to Bridgeport (if not to Tualatin–can’t Tualatin residents have a direct bus besides the 96); and the 37 going directly between LO and Tigard via Country Club, Boones Ferry, Kruse Way, and Hunziger.

    The 38, I’d have serve the Tigard Triangle connecting with Barbur TC; keep it on 72nd. Perhaps combining it with some other peak-routes in SW Portland.

    The stretch of 38 along Boones Ferry; I’m not sure what to do with.

    I suspect the SW Corridor will scramble all of this anyway if and when it’s designed and built.

  5. Jason McHuff
    April 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm Link

    What I would like to see considered is having Line 47 continue east on Baseline past 231st to Willow Creek, and have Line 46 continue east from Shute Road on Evergreen Parkway, taking over the current northern/eastern half of Line 46.

    This could potentially be done now; the downside is that north/south service on 231st would be lost without a new route.

  6. Josh
    April 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm Link

    I like the idea of truncating the 20 in downtown Portland and creating a 48-Cornell/Barnes route. Perhaps the 76 could be extended to take over the Beaverton TC-Sunset TC portion of the 20; that would provide a strong north-south route through Beaverton on Cedar Hills/Hall. And with the 48 heading down Barnes, the 62 could instead serve NW Cornell and NW Cedar Hills Blvd to Sunset TC.

  7. EngineerScotty
    April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm Link

    Just got a tweet from TriMet: “@engineerscotty Line 67′s new name would be Line 67 Bethany/158th”

    Other than the order (which, I suppose, is arbitrary), not surprising.

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