Metro green-lights study of Powell/Division corridor, hints at broader BRT future.

At it’s recent Thursday meeting, the Metro board voted 7-0 to move forward with a study of the Powell/Division Transit Corridor. The corridor in question stretches from Portland State University out to Gresham, centered on SE Powell Boulevard and SE Division Street, ending around Mount Hood Community College. Screenshot from 2012-05-18 23:48:54.png

(A full-size pdf of the above map is here).

As widely expected, Metro planners envision the corridor to be some sort of Bus Rapid Transit, not light rail. In a bit of a surprise, Metro planner Elissa Gertler suggested that this might be a way of doing business that the region embraces more in the future. In an interview with Metro staff reporter Nick Christensen, she said “”We are focusing on lean and mean solutions. Whether it’s the Southwest Corridor or any other corridor, we have a different definition of success. Every corridor plan does not necessarily have to end in a giant EIS (environmental study) for light rail. Most corridor plans are not going to end that way for a long time.”

While I would be surprised if the Southwest Corridor wasn’t another light rail line–there are many reasons it too could work as BRT, especially if the money (or political stomach) isn’t there for future light rail expansion. Much political capital has been spent on Milwaukie MAX, as well as financial capital; given the uncertainty of funding for large capital projects going forward, BRT can be an excellent way to improve transit service without breaking the bank.

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