Updated: SW Corridor Options About to be Narrowed

Update: 3/20/14

Maps of the potential alignments as well as the options proposed for elimination are now available at Metro’s web site.

Original Post: 3/19/14

This article on Metro’s site talks about some of the options likely to be removed from consideration in April by the project steering committee.

I mourn the tunnel from Hillsdale to Multnomah Village.

29 responses to “Updated: SW Corridor Options About to be Narrowed”

  1. It’s good to hear the study is expediently reduced to most viable options. A 390′ elevator to OHSU and light rail tunnels won’t remain on the table much longer. Awhile back, I laid out a trolleybus line to OHSU, but any low-emission, low-floor, short wheel base, hill climbing coach just from downtown would serve OHSU as well and better than a MAX tunnel. I’ve been on the 44 through Hillsdale and Multnomah many times and would rather the SW Bertha route be taken to avoid that dang hillclimb off Barbur. Hillsdale could run a short line shuttle for high school kids.

  2. Any line without a tunnel under OHSU is unbelievably, breathtakingly short-sighted. Our most direct transit link between downtown and the city’s largest employer should not rely on running buses up windy Terwilliger Blvd.

    I’m OK with skipping Multnomah Village but it’s still worth it to serve Hillsdale as it is a Metro-designated town center.

  3. SW Corridor is going to be fake BRT. With the vote in Tigard, the current budget situation, and expected opposition to anything light rail, I wouldn’t expect anything great for SW Portland.

  4. The BRT line should simply end at PCC with Tualatin served by an all day version of the 96 that pulls off to stop for transfers at Barbur TC. The tortuous detour to serve the Tigard Transit Center — which the citizens of Tigard have said they don’t want — will destroy the effectiveness of BRT south of PCC. The places needing service are too widely dispersed.

  5. If you’re going to serve Marquam Hill effectively, you pretty much have to bite the bullet and do a tunnel. I like that options are being investigated fully, though. It will make it easier to accept the price tag for a tunnel. Put the surface station near the bus stop located across the street from the Physicians’ Pavilion building at OHSU. There is some space there (you wouldn’t need much) and it gives good connections to most places on the Hill, with the obvious exception of the VA hospital. Serving the hill well would allow a lot of savings by cutting back on bus service, which will off-set some of the cost. (There are 6 lines that go up & down there currently.)

  6. What if the MAX was going to stay aboveground – how much elevation could it gain by the time it got to a potential OHSU station – assuming it was routed along the cliffs. Could we then have a bank of escalators that were much shorter and avoid the insane cost of tunnelling? (Not being that kind of engineer, I have no clue on this stuff – My impression is viaducts are cheaper than tunnelling)

    • Allan,

      I think you’d substitute the “insane cost of tunnelling” with the “insane cost of building on a cliff”. To serve OHSU, it’s the tunnel or Wells’ “low emission” 30 footers.

      • The proposed MAX route to Tigard includes tunnels through PCC Silvania and the west hills for OHSU and Hillsdale. It seems to me that Wes will one day become a MAX corridor more readily. Tri-Met serves OHSU with express bus lines 61,64,65,66,68 which traverse Terwilliger Blvd. The 8 is the regular service line that even with a MAX tunnel station would need more frequent service to shuttle around the campus.
        Thus goes my thinking about specific circulator shuttle vehicles for specific routes. When a light rail cannot be routed to serve specific destinations because of cost and impact, connecting transit lines can be effective alternatives.

        • Wells,

          Sorry that my quote about “low emission” 30 footers sounded snarky, It wasn’t meant to be. What I meant was that the choices are the tunnel and slow winding bus routes. The location is that bad (stunning, no doubt, but stupid beyond belief from any transportation perspective).

          So far as making WES into an extension of the Red Line, I say right on. To make it useful it would have to go elevated over 217 north and south of Washington Square, and there are some skinny places through Tualatin which will be hard to double track. But it would would serve far more potential rides than one of those terminally twisted BRT options shown on the linked map. Serve the downtown bound ridership with BRT on 99 as far as PCC and maybe Tigard TC if the progressive forces in Tigard rally and bin their BANANA ordinance.

          Most people in Tualatin and Tigard would be happy to ride a Red Line with few stops to downtown because it would be so reliable and comfortable, having grade separation throughout.

          • I thought “Well’s low-emission 30-footers” was a respectable description of that option. Seniors and disabled need new design paratransit vans with low-floor boarding and hybrid/electric emission reduction. That same drivetrain could work for 30′ workhorse buses, probably. GM & Ford have been profitting off their “cheap” paratransit vans for too long.

            In the current political climate, a MAX line to Tigard TC wouldn’t be feasable. Not worth $500 Grand for a study, nor would the easily predictable high price tag go over well. I say put it on the shelf for the time being. A MAX line entirely along the Wes corridor would be low cost. Connecting transit bus lines could reach Washington Square, other destinations and transit corridors.

            • Agreed, except that it must serve Washington Square without a street crossing. It can be open air (though covered would be better), but a MAX line must cross 217 both north and south of Washington Square to make it work.

              People would laugh if Tri-Met proposed spending half a billion dollars extending the Red Line to Wilsonville and bypassed Washington Square. Rightly.

              It wouldn’t be cheap — probably another couple of hundred million — but it would be necessary. Look at the derision that Bellevue and SoundTransit have received by putting the downtown Bellevue station so far from Bell Square. Shopping is an important all-day trip generator.

            • Transit agencies (and advocates) must leave the ‘one size fits all’ thinking behind. The first sacred cow to go should be one-seat ride. No major transit system can work optimally without dedicated transfers. The original Interstate MAX S/N line was routed along I-5 from Going to Lombard taking out 110 homes and apartments. Interstate MAX fortunately evolved. Seattle planning agencies produce hypnotically grandiose designs and disappointing outcomes. Seattle Metro is the worst bus system I’ve ever seen.

            • Wells,

              I’m sorry, but you are being ideological. Washington Square is a HUGE destination and transfer point. As it is now with WES, if folks want to go there — and many do — they have to get off WES at Hall/Nimbus and ride the 76/78 to the TC. Since they can get the 76 or 78 at either Tigard TC or Beaverton TC, if they’re coming from either of those stations) and there are only two more….), most will take the bus even though its slower.

              If they’re coming from Tualatin station some probably would wait for the WES because the bus ride is a LOT slower from there and service frequency is halved, but many will still take the bus. You can’t legislate a requirement to transfer to and from a shadow bus to get to a major traffic center that HCT is passing by 1/4 of a mile away! You just can’t.

              If you tried just to replace WES with the Red Line (or whatever) without swooping over for a station at Washington Square, it would never pass.

            • All right Anandakos. I can see that a fairly simple MAX flyover to Washington Square (and back) is possible and probably affordable, much more so than tunnels to OHSU, Hillsdale and PCC Silvania. But, I object having my viewpoint on transfers being labelled as ideologically strict.

              Transfers must be carefully arranged for both route options. Bypassing Washington Square to make the line affordable does not rule out eventually adding the flyover.

              The S/N MAX alignment alongside I-5 could reach higher average speed that some advocates still insist ‘ideologically’ is necessary. Interstate MAX proved its slower speed was adequate and the more ideal transfer points are on Interstate.

              My ideology reduces cost/impact and keeps options open. Your ideology doesn’t take into account the complex question of transfer arrangements. Washington Square could one day become more important than just another frivolous shopping mall and vast noxious parking lot.

            • Wells,

              I don’t object to your general point that transfers are good. I agree and do them all the time myself; they are necessary to make frequent service feasible in a modern spread-out American city. I also agree that Interstate Avenue was a far better choice for MAX than the I-5 trench. Yecch!

              And I’ll sure agree about the grandiose designs if you’re meaning those elevated Link stations. Heck, even the DBT stations. Very impressive but definitely over the top.

  7. I remember during the initial (often heated) tram debate there were predictions that nobody would ever want to ride the thing, that passengers would expire from heat or heart attacks, that it would routinely be getting stuck, etc. Nothing buries the memory of past criticism like success. Although I see some comment-troll critics on other sites are now acting as though the tram was inadequately planned for capacity and growth.

    Perhaps its time to resurrect Jim Howell’s idea of a combination of pedestrian tunnel and elevator to connect OHSU to South Waterfront. This could augment the tram without the need to modify it. The pedestrian/bike tunnel would go under OHSU, and an elevator would go to the top with an intermediate stop to connect with a future high capacity transit tunnel. I recall the original proposal suggested a moving sidewalk. The moving sidewalk would no longer be needed, because passengers with mobility limitations could take the existing tram.

    I’m sure it’s not politically viable to suggest another completely new tram these days, but just for the sake of fantasy, wouldn’t it make sense to connect the new Life Sciences building and yet-to-be-named transit bridge to OHSU with a new tram? Connecting to the current tram requires either a transfer to streetcar or a bit of a walk. A tram landing near the westside transit platforms of the bridge would connect many bus lines, the streetcar, and MAX to OHSU in a new way.

    • A very elegant idea, Bob. But how about a gondola rather than a tram? Gondolas have greater capacity because they have more cars. It couldn’t take a straight line between stations like the tram does, because you need intermediate pylons to support the greater weight of all the cars on a gondola. That’s certainly a potential problem because they would pass relatively close to the ground over the neighborhood east of Barbur. Still, it’s something to consider if it’s to be an actual part of the transit network.

  8. Looking at the various plans, here’s my thoughts:

    * At some point in the future, it would be nice to see $$$ attached to the various possibilities, even if back-of-the-envelope estimates (likely off by half).

    * The loop-de-loop into Tigard TC looks ugly and obnoxious, even moreso than the Red Line loop at Gateway. With Beaverton TC and the Blue Line only five miles away….. sigh.

    * Again, if BRT is selected–it would be nice if some sort of “open” BRT is used, so either regular TriMet lines (the 76! The 94! I’m assuming the 96 would be 86d as a separate service) could use the BRT infrastructure. This might be a good “fix” to the Tigard issue; Portland/Tualatin busses need not go to Tigard, and can branch off somewhere near Tigard Triangle; and likewise the 76 can use the busway (I’d prefer an alignment closer to the freeway or 72nd, rather than down Hall Boulevard, south of Tigard) and switch to its current route north of there.

    • Gotta agree about the loop-the-loop at Tigard TC. If it’s a MAX line, probably better to just continue north to Washington Square. Google Maps shows what looks like an abandoned rail right-of-way along Tigard Street and Tiedeman Avenue that would get early to Greenburg Road (albeit with a rail crossing) — and then it’s less than half a mile along Greenburg Road to the east shoulder of 217 and Washington Square parking. Washington Square strikes me as an ideal place to end a potential MAX line into SW.

      • That rail line isn’t abandoned. Both the “Oregon Electric” tracks (the ones to the west that go to Tualatin) and the “Tillamook Branch” tracks (the ones to the east that go to Lake Oswego) are still I believe in active service.

        But if you get to Washingon Square–then Beaverton TC is only THREE miles away….even more tempting.

        • I’m pretty sure the right-of-way I’m talking about is abandoned. It runs along the shoulder of Tigard Street, then curves along Tiedeman. Google street view looks to me like it’s overgrown with weeds — not a line in active use. My point being it might be useful right-of-way even though it would require an elevated MAX crossing over the freight/WES tracks. It looks to me like an easy extension to a future SW Corridor MAX line that comes into Tigard TC from the south.

          • Scotty,

            You are both correct; he’s talking about the trackage west of Tigard TC; you were talking about the trackage to the east.


            The roadbed you’re seeing was the OE’s; it crossed the SP (the remaining trackage) in a diamond crossing just northwest of Tiedeman Avenue. You can see the remnant of it’s bridge over Ash Creek directly above (north) the Trampoline Center in Google Maps (Satellite). The OE tracks north of there were covered when 217 was built; the now-unused connector just west of Beaverton Creek station was built then to divert OE trains from the tracks through downtown Beaverton to the SP from about 158th and TV Highway to downtown Tigard, about where the Tigard TC is now. This allowed the redevelopment of “Old Beaverton” into what we all love so much now.

            • P.S.

              And, since it will have to have a grade separation to cross the P&W (SP) tracks, it’d be ready for an elevated run up the west side of Tiedeman and Greenburg Road then over the freeway to a station across Washington Square Road from the parking garage.

              And, as Scotty says, “On to Beaverton” (and I agree that Hall would be a good choice, but you’ve got to sell it to Beavertonians (is that a word?). Good luck with that!)

          • That section of abandoned railway was sold to the city of Tigard for a future trail/parkland. I believe they plan to make it part of the Fanno Creek trail. But it definitely could be used for a future MAX route.

            I find it absurd that they would build a MAX line but not connect it to the busiest shopping mall in the state and one of the top destinations in the Portland area.

  9. The tram may serve most of the population, but I for one will never take a second ride in it. I guess I have fear of heights. I had to sit on the seat and look only at the floor to survive the ride. I don’t know how much of the population is affected this way.

    • The first time on the OHSU tram, the swing at the pivot point made me a little queasy, but only that first time. That’s how I encourage tourists to ride it warned that the queasy feeling is temporary.

      How about this option: Express bus lines (61,64,65,66,68) remain on Terwilliger, transfer at Campus Drive with a proper hill-climbing set of shuttle buses. I see your eyes rolling!

  10. A few comments after taking the time to peruse the design options on Metro’s website:

    * As I’ve mentioned in the past, the fact that major destinations in SW aren’t laid out in a linear fashion due to street grid, geography, etc. may end up necessitating a multi-corridor solution; i.e., a HCT trunk line serving the biggest destinations and frequent-service bus lines serving other destinations, with transfer points wherever they intersect.

    * I’m happy the underground OHSU station is still on the table. It’s inconceivable one of the area’s biggest employers is only served by a near-capacity tram and a handful of bus lines on a winding road (I’d still like to see at least a couple of the bus lines retained, particularly the 61 as it connects Pill Hill with points west).

    * With all due respect to Multnomah Village, I’m not shedding any tears over the underground station’s removal from further consideration (I might see Hillsdale warranting an underground stop but I’d need to see more data). As I see it, the village would be well served by a frequent-service Multnomah Blvd. express bus connecting it with Garden Home and Washington Square to the southwest, and Burlingame (where riders could transfer to the HCT line) and downtown to the northeast, perhaps even deviating from Barbur around SW Hamilton to serve South Waterfront.

    * Agree with Scotty about the cringe-inducing loop-de-loop into Tigard TC. I suppose Option C (Beveland South) for crossing 217 into downtown Tigard would be the least of those evils.

  11. I’m a little late to the game with in idea, but I thought I would toss it out anyway: What about combining light rail with bus rapid transit. Let me explain it a little better. On LR trackways not in tunnel(s), build the trackway up to support busses and LRV like in downtown Portland. This would serve both modes service. Bus routes could use the exclusive ROW to move though traffic smoother, and still be flexible enough to change when warranted.

    Granted this wont work in a tunnel, since a BRT would need to go around, but it gives us the oppertunity to serve the areas that a tunnel misses.

    I’m hoping that a combined ROW would provide better service than once every 15/20 for a train.

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