Gateway branch of Lane Transit District’s EmX system opens Sunday, Jan 9.
Since somebody mentioned EmX (Emerald Express, the BRT line operated by Lane Transit District which serves the Eugene/Springfield area) in the comments, it is worth mentioning that this Sunday, January 9, the Gateway extension to the line will be opening. The line, connecting downtown Springfield with the Gateway Mall and North Springfield areas (map) will be an extension of the existing line which connects downtown Springfield, downtown Eugene, and the University of Oregon. Service on EmX will be free all of next week.
The line runs at 10 minute headways during weekdays, at 15 minute headways evenings and weekends.
A third extension of the system, to West Eugene, is in the works. (The proposed line has drawn criticism from local business owners, convinced that any reduction of auto capacity in the area will harm their business, while doubting that the transit line will make up the difference).
7 responses to “EmX Gateway Extension to open this Sunday”
Looking at the map (and this may just be a color coding issue), it appears that Gateway might actually be a whole separate line, rather than an extension, meeting the original line in Springfield.
Does anyone know if buses are through-routed?
I ask, because an oft-touted feature of BRT compared to rail is the supposed elimination of the need for “feeder” lines and “forced transfers”. But the colors and loops on the map _seem_ to indicate that Gateway riders seeking to go to Eugene will get a “forced transfer” in Springfield.
Looks like EmX, which was originally fareless, has gone to a proof-of-payment fare system much like MAX and other light rail systems:
According to sources, the Gateway line will be an extension of the existing Green Line–i.e. you can ride the bus from U of O to Gateway Mall without getting out of your seat.
The system was initially fareless, then did switch to PoP as you note. EmX is unusual for a bus system because it has boarding doors on both sides of the vehicle; many stops are “center island” stations located in the median of Franklin Boulevard (and elsewhere).
One interesting thing to note: The ridership of EmX is anemic compared to MAX standards–the system averages about 6000 rides per day; the entire MAX system is north of 120k per day. Likewise, TriMet overall gets about 100 million boarding rides/year, LTD only 10 million.
Whether that’s a fair comparison or not is an interesting question–Eugene/Springfield is a much smaller city than Portland, and while it (like Portland) is known as a hotbed of leftist politics, it’s considerably less dense than Portland, and quite easy to get around by car. (The perpetual mess that is West 11th Avenue is a notable exception). The portion of the metro area where lots of density is to be found–between downtown Eugene and the university–is also quite walkable (or joggable, since this IS Eugene); many trips can be easily made on foot.
Yes, regarding the multiple boarding doors on each side, I think that’s a great thing that Portland should investigate.
A few articulated double-sided buses like that in the fleet could, in the short term, be easily deployed to fill in for MAX and streetcar problems without the need for confusing reroutes around left-side platforms.
But in the long term, should there be a structural event which causes a sudden increase in transit demand (such as sustained high fuel prices), capacity on the transit mall could be greatly increased without affecting current operations by running additional buses in the left, multi-modal lane.
Right now, these buses are rather expensive ($1M) because they are rare and have a hybrid drivetrain. But as more and more agencies move to hybrids, the door placement itself becomes less of a cost issue — the cost situation should improve as economies of scale kick in.
(To clarify, my use of “Portland” in the above comment refers to the region as a whole and doesn’t necessarily limit the scope to any one entity or agency. :-) )
EngineerScotty: One interesting thing to note: The ridership of EmX is anemic compared to MAX standards–the system averages about 6000 rides per day; the entire MAX system is north of 120k per day. Likewise, TriMet overall gets about 100 million boarding rides/year, LTD only 10 million.
The comparison is faulty on a number of levels:
1. The commenter is comparing one four mile BRT system to a 52+ mile long light rail system. Of course the ridership is going to be “anemic” on EmX.
A better comparison could be boarding rides per mile (in which case MAX is about 2,290 riders; EmX is 1,500 riders) – but keep in mind that EmX is only a few years old; the MAX line from Portland-Gresham is 25 years old this year.
From what I can tell from an Internet search, MAX had about 25,000 daily boarding rides in 1987 – or about 1,700 riders per route-mile (just over 15 miles of route from Portland to Gresham). EmX isn’t doing too shabby in comparison.
2. The commenter then makes the position that LTD’s ridership is far below Portland’s – again, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. TriMet’s service area has a population of nearly 3 million, while the LTD’s service area is about 300,000 – 10% the size. The fact that LTD has 10% of the ridership of TriMet puts LTD’s ridership quite comparably with TriMet when the context of the area’s population is factored in.
The four mile EmX line cost a mere $24 million – about $6 million per mile. Kind of steep for a BRT line; but compared to the “low cost” Portland Streetcar line at $12 million and up, and light rail construction costs that are much higher, BRT has proven time and time again to be cost-effective both in construction and in operating cost, and it does attract ridership (Snohomish County’s BRT line quickly jumped to become the second highest ridership route in the entire transit system.)
There are certainly advantages to light rail and streetcar when it is used appropriately; however Eugene and other cities have shown that BRT is a valuable and useful tool, while Portland has shunned a system for the mere reason that it includes the word “bus” – rather than taking an objective look at how BRT could innovate and increase ridership in a system that is continuing to see bus riders flee the system due to over a decade’s worth of disinvestment. BRT, and BRT like amenities, would work wonders on high-capacity routes like the 6, 9P, 12, 33, 57 and 72. (In comparison, routes like the 4 (west of I-205), 8, 9B, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, 24, and 44M would make excellent routes to convert to trolleybus or streetcar, rather than Portland’s approach to re-invent the wheel when it comes to the streetcar – creating a separate system, rather than a true integration into the existing service and using the streetcar as an upgrade of existing, well-used urban bus routes.)
Me: One interesting thing to note: The ridership of EmX is anemic compared to MAX standards–the system averages about 6000 rides per day; the entire MAX system is north of 120k per day. Likewise, TriMet overall gets about 100 million boarding rides/year, LTD only 10 million.
EH: The comparison is faulty on a number of levels:
I agree, which is why I stated that “Whether that’s a fair comparison or not is an interesting question”. It’s useful to put the numbers in context, and your analysis helps to do so. In general, it’s difficult to meaningfully compare a multi-million person service area to a 300k person service area, just as it’s not easy to meaningfully compare Portland to New York. I don’t mean to imply at all that EmX is not successful–I think it’s a good system. My remarks should not be construed as commentary on the merits of BRT vs rail; I consider them complementary technologies with different (albeit overlapping) applications. I’d love to see an EmX-like BRT line on certain important transit corridors in Portland, such as Powell.
One correction or two for you is in order, though.
The population of the entire Portland/Vancouver MSA is, according to the latest numbers I can find, about 2.2 million; with about 1/2 million of these living in Vancouver. The TriMet service district has a population of 1.5 million or thereabouts. That said, I haven’t seen 2010 census numbers for the area published yet–the figures I have (from Wikipedia) are 2009 estimates.
Anyways, it’s good to see you commenting on PT again!