Transit Mall Plans: A new pain in the S?

Frequently in comments on this blog, I’ve stressed the importance of actually going to meetings. It appears I should have heeded my own advice: Although I’ve attended the vast majority of meetings regarding the Transit Mall light rail project, my work and travel schedules have largely required me to take a break since September.

I was just going over the minutes of the September CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) meeting, and discovered something interesting: The MAX Green Line alignment into Old Town is being rerouted.

[Updated: Added map images for clarity]

(More after the flip)

Due to concerns about traffic flow, property condemnation, and the preservation of a historic structure, the alignment of MAX as it would enter the Union Station area from the Steel Bridge has been changed. Instead of a direct ramp, it is now planned that MAX will go down from the Steel Bridge on Glisan, and make a tight right turn onto 3rd, and then a tight left turn back on to its original planned alignment.

This new “S” curve (subsequently approved by the CAC) would mitigate a number of issues, but for transit riders it will add two very tight turns in a row and an estimated 16 seconds of travel time each way.

Sixteen seconds may not sound like a lot, but this is in an area where MAX is already encumbered my multiple interlocks (the Rose Quarter area) and very low operating speeds. If you’ve ever been frustrated riding MAX as it proceeds slowly from Rose Quarter to Old Town, close your eyes and count to 16. That’s how much MORE delay you will experience on the new Green Line.

Although I support the Mall project, I have always expressed concerns about the bottleneck of the Steel Bridge and related interlocks. It now appears that we could spend millions and wind up with something which further degrades performance in that critical area.

Map of Original Route (approx.):

Map of New Route (approx.):

(The curve indicated by a question mark may not exist, it was difficult to tell from reading the minutes.)

I do not know if this new route is set in stone, and unfortunately much of this ignorance is my own fault for not keeping on top of issues raised at the public meetings. I strongly encourage anyone here with an opinion on the matter, especially regular riders who cross the Steel Bridge, to contact TriMet with your thoughts.

Here’s a link to the CAC meeting minutes page:
http://www.portlandmall.org/meetings/cac/index.htm

Here’s a link to the Transit Mall project feedback/comment form:
http://www.portlandmall.org/contact/feedback.htm

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