Archive | Southwest Corridor

Your Questions For Neil, “Round 5”, Part 1 – High-Capacity Projects

Last Wednesday, Chris sat down with TriMet’s Neil McFarlane for a discussion focused on your questions. This has become a sort of annual tradition for Portland Transport, and this year we were very pleased to be hosted by the Portland Opera – the Opera headquarters is located on the east bank of the Willamette just inches (48 to be specific) from the new transit/bike/ped bridge currently under construction.

The interview session is divided into four videos. We’ll be posting one a day this week – here’s Part 1:

Part 1 is mainly about high-capacity projects, now and in the future. Here’s some of the questions addressed:

  • Will the new bridge be open for bikes and peds before transit operations begin?
  • How will the “Orange Line” be operated? Will it interline with the Yellow Line?
  • What is the fate of high capacity to Clark County now that the CRC is officially dead?
  • How does the vote in Tigard affect SW Corridor planning? What’s TriMet’s view on what the ballot measure means?
  • Is a transit tunnel serving OHSU still on the table
  • Is the Powell/Division corridor being positioned to leapfrog the SW Corridor project?
  • Does TriMet have a strong modal preference (BRT, LRT) for the Powell/Division project?

Segment Navigation:

Check out Neil’s responses in the video and give us your take in the comments.

A reminder: Transfers Need Frequency

In the recent SW Corridor thread, the prospect of a LRT line connecting Tigard TC with Washington Square and/or Beaverton TC came up.  Such a thing is outside the scope of the SW Corridor project as currently defined, but might well be a longer-term project for the metro area.  One specific question that came up for such a hypothetical prospect is the question of whether an LRT line in the corridor would follow the freight tracks as does WES, and require transfers (at Hall/Nimbus, or possibly Scholls Ferry) to reach the Washington Square Mall (and its rather busy transit center, as well as a park-and-right near the mall), or serve the mall directly via flyover tracks (something not feasible with WES).

Commentor Anandakos thought such a direct connection was necessary:

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.

Commenter Wells thought Anandakos was being a bit dogmatic.

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.

While I tend to view Washington Square as an important-enough destination to get its own MAX stop, were such a line built (and I’d be tempted to further route the line up Hall Boulveard, rather than bypassing whole swaths of south-central Beaverton), Wells does have a point here:  Modern transit networks do depend on transfers.  You can’t have bus lines connecting everywhere with everywhere, and you especially can’t have that with trains.

But here’s the rub, though:  Transfers either need to be synchronized (as with a “pulse” at a transit center–something that works best in smaller, low-traffic cities), or connecting services need to be frequent.  As it is, 76/78 is nearly “frequent” in the corridor…but WES itself is not.

A big reason why the cuts to the high-frequency grid in 2009 and 2012, were so devastating to the quality of TriMet service, was not that the average wait to catch a bus along, say, SE Hawthorne went up from 7 1/2 minutes to 10 minutes.  The devastating thing is that riders who wanted to transfer to another bus (say the 75 or the 71) found that these transfers now took a lot longer time.  Grids require high frequency to work.  You can’t time transfers at all the connections in a grid, and grids abandon common transfer points in favor of a more efficient network of parallel routes–so to make transfers tolerable, the connecting services must be frequent.

Of course, this analysis may not apply in Washington County, particularly Tigard, where there is neither high-frequency service (only the 12/94 and 76/78) nor anything resembling a grid.  The street network there is poorly-suited towards a mesh topology, and the lower density makes it all but impossible for everyone to have a bus stop within walking distance.  In such an environment, use of transit centers (and structuring transfers so most of them occur at transit centers) makes more sense, and having major trunk lines (such as any expansion of MAX in the area) serve those transit centers ought to be viewed as an obvious step.

NOW is the Time to Pay Attention to the SW Corridor

The “purpose and need” statement for the SW Corridor project is now out for review. This is perhaps one of the most critical documents in the history of the project. The purpose and need statement becomes the yardstick for all future decisions in the project.

Arguably a flawed purpose and need statement is what allowed the Columbia River Cross project to bypass all the reasonable alternatives and reinforced the rationale for a large highway solution.

The SW Corridor purpose and need may not be flawed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for improvement. On my first read it appears to me that there could be stronger language about active transportation and better linkages to key land use policies like the “Healthy Connected City” plank of the Portland Plan.

You can read the draft here (PDF) and comment via the survey here.


Southwest Corridor takes one more step forward

At a Metro Council work session on Tuesday, June 11, the project steering committee presented some draft recommendations to the Metro Council. The recommendations are still in draft at this point, and the Council took no action, but here’s what did get recommended, based on prior work and community feedback:

  • HCT corridor should stretch (eventually) from Portland to Tualatin via Tigard.
  • Both BRT and LRT are advanced for further consideration, and that BRT (if chosen) have at least 50% of the route running an exclusive right-of-way. (This is a minimum threshold for BRT projects to receive federal New Starts funding). Decision as to mode and alignment are expected by mid-2014 in order to start work on DEIS.
  • Enhancements to local transit are also recommended. In 2013-14, TriMet will develop the Southwest SEP (Service Enhancement Plan).
  • A $4 billion list of roadway, pedestrian, bike, and local transit enhancement projects proposed earlier was reduced to a $500M list of higher priority projects. Potential big-ticket items include rebuilding Naito Parkway between Barbur and Lincoln (getting rid of the last vestiges of the old 99), redesigning the Barbur/Capitol/I-5 interchange, and a new crossing of OR217 between 99W and SW 72nd.
  • Trail, park, and environmental mitigation projects were also identified.

The Steering Committee’s draft recommendations can be read here. The report starts at page 41 (the link is to a meeting packet; the first forty minutes contains the agenda of the work session and stuff relevant to other business).