Last week, Portland Transport hosted an article on the subject of potential savings which could be realized by closing MAX stations and making the MAX line(s) more efficient. This article was prompted by GM Neil McFarlane’s comments in our recent interview series, particularly the first part which discussed the recent service cuts. Chris, who conducted the interview, noted that budget crises are an opportune time to make politically-difficult but operationally-beneficial service reconfigurations, and indeed, some of the service changes (such as combining the 73 and the 70 on the east side, and combining the 47/48 and the 89 in Washington County) are of that sort.
Continuing along that same line, in this thread we invite readers to make additional suggestions of how service can be tweaked to improve operational efficiency. We’re not looking for a list of which lines can be cut altogether (though feel free to make suggestions which do reduce service)–instead we’re looking for suggestions on how lines can be combined or re-routed to make service more efficient, and perhaps serve more people at the same time. We’re also limiting this discussion to the bus system–the trains go where they go, and major capital projects are out of scope for this discussion (minor improvements such as the need to install bus stops on new streets are OK). Keep in mind budget constraints as well–while we’d all like to see frequent service on the 35, the 76, and numerous other routes which deserve it–one of the assumptions is a financially-constrained budget. (Otherwise we wouldn’t have the opportunity to propose reconfigurations of this sort).
I’ll lead off the discussion with a suggestion, after the jump.
Suggestion: Combine the 58, 63, and 83.
The 58/Canyon Road bus travels between Beaverton Transit Center and downtown Portland. Leaving BTC, it travels east on Canyon Road to the Sylvan interchange, then takes US26 to just before the tunnel, and then exits to Goose Hollow. After serving the Goose Hollow MAX station, it continues east on SW Columbia to SW 4th, turning around and heading west on SW Jefferson, and then back to Beaverton TC via the same route. The line only lays over at Beaverton; its eastward run is immediately followed by its return trip.
The one-way journey is scheduled to take about 20 minutes during off-peak hours, and up to 30 minutes during the peak. The line is in the bottom 20% of reliability among TriMet routes, only being on time 80% of the time–and given that it travels for several miles on the Sunset Highway, this should not be surprising. (The TriMet reliability data I’ve linked to unfortunately treats on-time as a binary condition; were one to examine weighted reliability, in which busses that are extremely late are given a proportionately greater penalty, I suspect that the 58 would do worse–simply because getting stuck in US26 traffic is a common occurrence).
The line runs at approximately 30 minute headways during weekdays, with 20 minute service during the peeks, and is generally served by two busses, with a third running during the peaks. The line is very efficient with regards to how much time it spends in revenue operation vs waiting (not having much recovery time, unfortunately, is also bad for reliability).
The 63-Washington Park/Arlington Heights and 83-Washington Park Loop routes run between JELD-WEN Field and the Oregon Zoo. It also serves other destinations in Washington Park such as the Rose Garden and Japanese Gardens. A one-way journey on the 63 takes 12-14 minutes. The bus runs hourly on weekdays and does not run on weekends. A single bus provides the service. The 63 is one of the most reliable routes on TriMet’s schedule, arriving on time 91% of the time. Unfortunately, it’s inefficient, as it spends most of its time (slightly over half) parked. It’s a great route to have if you’re a bus driver with loads of seniority–other than the part about having to haul a bus up SW Salmon and Park–but it its present configuration, it’s not terribly efficient. It’s useless as an end-to-end route, as both ends of the route are on the MAX line. The more tourist-oriented 83 is a seasonal bus that only runs in the summer months; however, it does provides weekend service during the months when it runs. It also takes a slightly different route through the park on its westbound journey, traveling up Kingston Drive rather than Fairview Boulevard. (Both bus lines use Fairview heading east).
Why combine them? Reliability and efficiency.
The 58 suffers greatly from being stuck in traffic on US 26, and while on the freeway, it can’t pick up or drop off passengers. But if instead of using US 26, it took Canyon Court to the Zoo, served the Zoo and neighboring attractions, and then took the route of the 63 down the hill–continuing downtown via SW Salmon and SW Taylor, rather than turning at JELD-WEN Field, the following benefits would be achieved:
- The reliability of the route would no doubt improve, by avoiding the Sunset Highway; the cost would be a few additional minutes of scheduled trip time.
- Service through Washington Park would improve dramatically, as the line would run on weekends year round, and by redeploying the service hours of the 63, the combined line could run at near 25-minute headways on weekdays, and close to 15 minute headways during peak hours if a fourth bus is placed in service on the route.
- No need to park and layover a bus near JELD-WEN Field. (I’m assuming that the 63 doesn’t presently interline with some other route).
- Washington Park Riders would be able to reach both the Transit Mall and Beaverton TC without transferring.
The main disadvantages to this are:
- A slightly longer scheduled commute for Beaverton riders heading downtown (or the reverse).
- The round trip time of the combined 58 would no longer fit into an hour–you can probably expect a one-way trip time of 35-40 minutes during peak hours–a problem if you consider clockface scheduling to be important. (The current 58 doesn’t have a clockface schedule, though the 63 does).
- If there is interlining going on that I’m not aware of–particularly at the downtown end of the routes–it might mess up the analysis.
The proposal eliminates two inefficient practices–freeway-running busses (which are unreliable and unable to pick up or drop of riders while on the freeway–given that MAX is in the same corridor, I’m not sure express-like services are all that necessary), and weak circulators that are mostly-redundant with parallel rapid transit.
The floor is yours
If you want to comment on the above, feel free; but the above proposal is intended only to get the ball rolling, not to be the primary subject of this post. Don’t feel the need to be as detailed as the above. But as the saying goes in politics–never let a good crisis go to waste–so we look forward to your suggestions as to how TriMet can reconfigure its bus system to improve service overall.