AORTA Continues to Engage FTA

AORTA isn’t standing down in its critique of the Transit Mall design. Here are their rebuttal to TriMet’s points (PDF, 48K) and a follow-up letter to the FTA (PDF, 52K).

18 responses to “AORTA Continues to Engage FTA”

  1. It looks like AORTA may have a point here. I was a bit skeptical of their earlier March 8 letter, but these two PDFs you have posted appear to A) go into the ridership details and reasons behind their growth projections more thoroughly, and B) explain why such criticism was not given earlier in the process (lack of publicly available data from TriMet).

    I am curious if AORTA has a response to my suggestion of a turning track and Naito Parkway / Morrison / Yamhill to allow for additional Westside-only service. This short 600ft of track would allow some eastbound trains to turn back to westbound without being constrained by the Steel Bridge limitations.


    – Bob R.

  2. Bob R.
    A turn-back would provide needed operational flexibility to deal with service disruptions such as a stuck bridge, a fire, etc. and one should be built for that reason.

    However, in general, loop-back and branching service are inherently inefficient and provide lower service levels. They are justified only in limited circumstances.

    If the east-side Max has greater demand than the west-side, then the excess east-side trains can loop back to match the demand at the 11th Avenue turnaround. All other east-side trains should be through-routed to balance the west-side demand. This improves accessibility and connectivity between west-side locations and those east-side locations that are beyond the proposed turnaround. Loop-back trains are wasteful because they separate the pickup and drop-off functions. Through-routed trains perform both a pickup and drop-off function during a single pass through downtown.

    TriMet’s plan to branch-off east-side service to PSU is a similarly inefficient loop, it fragments the service (producing unattractively long headways and forcing transfers for west-side passengers), and it requires inefficient counter-measures, such as the proposed turn-back, to meet future demand.

    Responsible system plans usually have transfers between intersecting routes, allowing higher frequency and better connectivity for both routes. Branching at the outer ends of lines can sometimes be justified, but the kind of branching service planned for the Mall is generally not done. More frequent streetcar service, and circulator buses during off-hours on the Mall, would both provide better quality service to PSU from all points in the region, more efficiently.

  3. Jim –

    Thank you for your comments.

    One thing I’d like to know, which would help me understand the situation better, is what percentage of Blue Line passengers coming from the west side (Sunset TC or beyond) do not get off downtown and cross the Steel Bridge, say to the Rose Quarter or out to Gateway.

    If it is a high percentage, then my turnback proposal would be of limited utility, because those riders would have to wait to board a different train and the new trains would therefore not absorb as much capacity.

    However, if it is a low percentage, I still think there may be some utility in the idea, especially to relieve westside peak-hour crowding.

    – Bob R.

  4. Bob R.

    I don’t know what is the percentage of trips on MAX that continue through downtown. Perhaps TriMet has ascertained this information by survey.

    Nevertheless, through routing Blue, Red and future Green Line trains on Morrison and Yamhill, picking up and dropping off passengers with one pass, is more cost effective than looping some of them, on or off the mall.

    Incidentally, in 05, there were more boardings outside of Fareless Square on the westside Blue and Red Lines than on the eastside(25,801 vs. 25,344 average weekday boardings).

  5. Incidentally, in 05, there were more boardings outside of Fareless Square on the westside Blue and Red Lines than on the eastside(25,801 vs. 25,344 average weekday boardings).

    Jim –

    Yes, that is interesting. I get a bit different numbers than you (using a route/stop census spreadsheet TriMet emailed me in March, but the precise time period of the counts is not indicated): 26,538 for Westside, 26,022 for Eastside.

    However just looking at the totals can be a bit misleading. The westside line is longer and there are 20 stops outside Fareless Square. Eastside is shorter and there are only 15 stops outside Fareless Square.

    Part of this imbalance is due to the extension of Fareless Square to the Lloyd District, which excludes 4 stations (Rose Quarter, Convention Center, 7th Ave, Lloyd Center) which historically would have been counted as Blue Line numbers in this scenario.

    (Not that it makes any real difference: Your point about the high ridership growth of the westside is still valid.)

    – Bob R.

  6. One thing to remember also about the eastside MAX versus westside MAX numbers is that commuters in Beaverton or Hillsboro have two choices really (cars or MAX). Bikes have the issue of getting over the West Hills in a timely manner and buses have to deal with the traffic.

    Eastside commuters have many bus lines to choose from and biking on the eastside is much more doable from farther East.


  7. Jim Said: “TriMet’s plan to branch-off east-side service to PSU is a similarly inefficient loop…”

    I think a point that continually gets missed is that this mall project isn’t just supposed to be a loop, but part of the future extension to Milwaukee, an essential part. If it were just a loop I would agree with you, but it’s part of the master plan.

  8. Isaac –

    It’s kindof a mixed bag… the current plan does NOT call for the Green Line to ever extend service to Milwaukie. It is slated to continue to turn around at PSU even after the South Corridor project is completed. The service slated to continue to Milwaukie is the Yellow line, which makes some sense as it would largely be a N-S service.

    Of course, if demand is high enough for service to Milwaukie, there is nothing physically preventing the continuation of Green Line trains all the way to Milwaukie.

    Just toying with an idea for the far distant future, it isn’t unreasonable to see an East-West connection for the south side, connecting the Boring/Damascus/Estacada area with Oregon City, West Linn, Tualatin, Sherwood, for suburb-to-suburb connections in those fast growing areas.

    Such future connections might allow for a track connection between Oregon City and Clackamas TC, which would then complete a Green Line “loop” service. This is just my speculation, not any plan that I have seen.

    – Bob R.

  9. In response to the crush loads of passengers, maybe they could hire people pushers (like they have in Tokyo). What a problem to have for a transit agency!

  10. It also seems like you guys are forgetting the approximate 23,000 students who have to commute into PSU – and MOST take transit (80%+). While not all come every day, I’d say a pretty big chunk of them do. PSU only has around 1,000 dorm rooms, so most of the students have to commute – and many live way out in Beaverton, Hillsboro, or Gresham. Many of them that live in the west side take the MAX.

    This is kind of an interesting case study: students (median age 28) either take transfers or walk from the MAX to PSU – it’s not a big deterrent to transit useage. However, all of the students I’ve talked to would love direct service.

  11. Isaac said: “I think a point that continually gets missed is that this mall project isn’t just supposed to be a loop, but part of the future extension to Milwaukee, an essential part. If it were just a loop I would agree with you, but it’s part of the master plan.”

    The point was not missed. I just do not agree with the “master Plan”. Routing the N-S Yellow Line through downtown is not a good idea. It would be slow, expensive to operate and would attract fewer riders than if it ran on the eastside, preferably in its own right of way between the Rose Quarter and OMSI. If stations are provided at the bridgeheads, it could provide fast convenient bus connections to the eastside as well as to downtown

  12. Jim –

    Assuming for a moment that the current plan goes ahead unchanged, what do you think of the following scenario for the future:

    1. An eastside-only N-S line is constructed as you suggest, with convenient stations (presumably with elevators) connecting the major bridge bus routes with N-S rail service.

    2. Green Line trains are routed on the Mall alignment as planned but continue all the way south to Milwaukie.

    Would you think it better to:

    A) Route Yellow Line trains on the Eastside N-S line to Milwaukie (bypassing downtown but with frequent transfers on the Blue/Red/Green lines at Rose Quarter)

    B) Continue to route Yellow along with the Green on the Mall, turning one line back (such as the Green), and running a new color (Orange) from Milwaukie to Expo Center on the Eastside alignment?

    In scenario A, Milwaukie riders would have a choice of color depending on whether they wanted to go downtown or stay on the eastside, but N. Portland passengers wanting to go downtown would be forced to transfer. However, little in the way of additional operating costs would incurred.

    In scenario B, both Milwaukie and N. Portland riders would have a color choice depending on whether they want Downtown or Eastside, but additional service hours and rolling stock would be required, thus higher operating costs.

    Or, do you have a Scenario C in mind which you would like to see, assuming again that the current plan is not modified?

    – Bob R.

  13. I am disturbed that over a week has gone by, and no commentator on Portland Transport has expressed any shock, dismay, or outrage that TriMet apparently lied to the FTA about the peak light rail capacity of Yamhill/Morrison, in order to jettison that alternative, and study only the Mall as a terminus for the Green line. Shouldn’t this be reported to the FBI? I know, this brings in $100 million or more Federal money to Portland, but does that justify falsehoods?

    Instead, I see rather lame attempts to justify the Mall choice for its future benefits, or because it provides direct rail service (for a small percentage of transit riders) to PSU, which would be better served by increasing frequencies on the Streetcar. While I think debate about the merits of the project would have been fine before it became locked in, all such debate is now pointless because the original TriMet lie forestalled the debate.

    Has FTA responded to AORTA’s most recent and explicit claim of misrepresentation?

  14. WMD,
    So far FTA has not reponded to AORTA’s most recent an explicit claim of misrepresentation.

  15. What if the Green Line becomes the Barbur line that’s being proposed? No more loop, problem solved.

    Now a little off topic…
    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a master plan. I’m looking at Metro’s 2040 concept map and I see a lot of corridors for transit lines, but as I’ve said before I’m concerned that there’s no coherent vision. One thing that strikes me with most transit systems in this country is that if you’re not going downtown the rail service is pretty much useless (Chicago is a great example with all radial lines and no wheels to connect the spokes).

    A good solution would be a suburban MAX line that would connect all the major centers outside the central city. It would begin at Beaverton with major stops in Tigard, Milwaukie, Clackamas, and Gresham. This would give people a way to get between cities without having to go downtown. It would also connect the Proposed 205 line to the Milwaukie line. Depending on the alignment it could connect many of the town centers in between like Lake Oswego, Happy Vally, Damascus, etc. It could also share some of the Barbur line tracks between Tigard and Milwaukie…

    This is obviously quite a ways in the future, but it seems that we need this kind of thinking and it’s not happening as far as I can see. What do you all think of this idea?

  16. One more thing…

    I was just looking at some maps, and if you were to send the line I was talking about through Damascus from the Clackamas TC it would line up just perfectly with the proposed parkway.

  17. I think the more likely connection is the use of the existing rail lines for some kind of “commuter rail” line using self-propelled vehicles. This would extend the Washington County commuter rail line on existing track through Lake Oswego to Milwaukie once the Milwaukie light rail extension is finished.

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