Transit Mall Discussion Shifts to Columbia/Jefferson

The Transit Mall is back in the news this morning, with a Trib article on the impact to Columbia and Jefferson.

So I have two questions to propose for discussion today:

1) If we assume that the current plan is going forward (all indications are the decision is not going to get revisited by any of the governments that approved it two years ago), does it permanently constrain the total transit capacity of the mall, so that future growth in ridership has to go to other streets?

2) Would a step-up in transit service on Columbia and Jefferson be a bad thing? After all, they had significantly more bus traffic prior to the opening of West Side Light Rail than they do today. Does a stronger east/west bus corridor have benefits to riders? Detriment to retail or other uses? Should Salmon/Washington and the Morrison Bridge take some of these lines?

3 responses to “Transit Mall Discussion Shifts to Columbia/Jefferson”

  1. 1) I seriously doubt it. The snaking in and out could be a speed problem. Hampering the trains getting thru as fast as they do currently (which isn’t very fast), but on the other hand, with two cross sections of light rail tracks – the only REAL pending bottleneck to increase flow into town is then the limit in light rail bridges. Which currently is already somewhat of a problem. But I also know that Tri-Met is planning a southern bridge after this segment of work is done. Also with the hope of getting people from Milwaukee to support a line to the downtown in Milwaukee. Personally I think they’re moving in the right direction.

    2) This does cause a problem. But hopefully – if anything they can just reduce the number of buses that need to go downtown. In all seriousness, it would be better for business and noise/pollution levels if the buses didn’t go downtown at all and everyone could ride trains into town – but that is me being dreamy and wishing for the hayday of privatized public transit of yesteryear. :(

  2. On point 1:

    There is a lot of confusion about the issue of capacity. Unfortunately, in Wednesday’s meeting, I don’t think it got entirely cleared up.

    After the many workshops and meetings I’ve attended and from what I’ve gleaned from conversations with staffers, here is what I believe to be the case:

    A. The total BUS capacity of the mall is quite high. When the mall first opened, many more buses ran than do today.
    B. As ridership shifted gradually to the east-west MAX corridor, the number of buses on the mall has declined to what it is today.
    C. Adding rail to the mall will in fact _reduce_ total bus capacity from its original high number, but will NOT reduce it so far that the mall cannot handle the CURRENT number of buses.
    D. RIDER capacity (on bus and/or rail) will be fairly high, due to the large number of riders that can fit into an LRV.
    E. Unknown (at least to me): When all is complete, will RIDER capacity be higher than it was when the mall first opened?

    Another factor to consider: A number of riders entering downtown via rail today transfer to bus to get up and down the mall more than a few blocks (PSU students, for example). At least for those coming from the east side (Yellow line and Green line), the mall project will give them the opportunity for a one-seat ride, potentially reducing demand on buses.

    I know that in my case, if I’m waiting to board a train at NE 60th, and wish to head up to the PSU area, I will consult the Transit Tracker display… If there is a Blue Line train right in front of me, but a Green Line train coming in less than 5 minutes, I may choose to wait for the green line so that I can have a one-seat ride directly to my destination.

    The Green line will serve the Pioneer Courthouse Square (and Pioneer Place) about as well as the Red/Blue lines and at about the same trip time, so eastside riders (coming anywhere from Rose Quarter to Gateway) will have service to that area with very short headways.

    All that being said, I’m still very concerned about the interlocks at the Steel Bridge. I have written to TriMet to obtain more detailed information about the exact timings involved.

    On Point 2:

    The nice thing about Columbia/Jefferson is that it connects very will with the Goose Hollow MAX station. MAX riders coming from the west side who seek to access southern parts of downtown or some SE destinations may find it a better place to transfer.

    Regarding bus noise, I think that over time the noise factor of buses will improve. I have seen the hybrid test bus in action a couple of times and it is considerably quieter than a regular bus. I hope that within the next 10 years that the technology will mature and that the fleet can shift over to it. This will allow buses moving down-slope on Columbia to run virtually silent, and up-slope on Jefferson to be slightly quieter than today’s buses.

    – Bob R.

  3. The anti-transit tone of yet another Trib article gets tiring.
    Columbia/Jefferson is now a relatively high capacity couplet…it used to be Hwy 26…that is no beauty.
    I think it makes sense to put some buses there based on the logic of the routes themselves…i.e. the 6 and 68 now connect with MAX at Goose Hollow. Not sure what other lines are underconsideration.
    During construction, I would put all the N/S bus service on 3rd & 4th to keep it easy to transfer, etc. Again, the route itself should govern… so maybe put the 17 on 10th/11th would make sense as it is heading for NW.

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