Mall Discontent II

Update – the morning after: Former Mayor Vera Katz, who chaired the original steering committee that signed off the design is now suggesting that the new information needs a review, as reported in the Tribune.

Whatever you think about the downtown Transit Mall plan, it’s pretty clear TriMet is out of favor with the Downtown Neighborhood Association. The association president used the first part of the meeting this evening to trash TriMet’s response to the written questions.

This was followed by a presentation by Riverfront for People, an organization that until now has been known for their support of removing the freeway from the east bank of the Willamette. They presented their alternative ideas for the mall.

I was not able to stay for the whole meeting, but did get the handout (PDF, 82K). The presenting team was Joe Smith, Ron Buel, George Crandell and Jim Howell.

Here are some of their key points (and my reactions in some cases).

  • The mall does need an upgrade
  • The current ‘weaving’ design is unsafe and reduces bus capacity
  • Two years of construction will disrupt the downtown economy (OK, but what does this have to do with the design?)
  • Moving some bus lines to other streets permanently will be confusing
  • Steel Bridge MAX bottleneck
  • Permanent damage to downtown by moving buses to 3rd and 4th, Columbia and Jefferson (This is the one I struggle with the most – it implies that transit service is a detriment to the retail environment on a street, I think the opposite is true. Also, they might have noticed that Columbia and Jefferson are already transit streets.)

Their recommendations:

  • Separate lanes for Light Rail and Buses, no weaving (doesn’t address Steel Bridge bottleneck)
  • Shorten the construction period (OK, but isn’t that a good idea for either design?)
  • Keep autos off the mall during rush hour (but still allow autos – I think the in the bus lane – at other times. Doesn’t this impact bus capacity?)
  • Keep all the lines currently on the mall on the mall, not on 3rd, 4th or other streets

My overall reaction is that they describe a lot of problems, then offer a solution to a subset. I’m sure that TriMet will basically respond “where were you two years ago when we examined the lane options?”

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