Transit Investment Priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 (July 2016–June 2017)
Our Transit Investment Priorities process (or “TIP” for short) is our guide for making investments in bus and rail service, capital projects and customer information, and developing strategies to improve financial stability.
We develop the TIP with input from riders, our jurisdictional and community partners and the general public. The lenses and process that we use to make service decisions are summarized in our Service Guidelines Framework. The TIP addresses short-term issues as well as our region’s long-term transportation and livability goals.
The TIP process supports local and regional visions for the future. It helps local governments look for ways to get the most out of our service by investing in such things as sidewalks and safe street crossings. It also shares our planning process and future plans so that local governments, social service providers, private developers, private businesses, and the general public can better understand how to take advantage of the current and future service we provide. It is the basis for TriMet and our partners to improve coordination, transit service and access to that service.
1. Making transit better for riders
We know our riders want better service — and more of it. So to grow and improve our network of buses and trains, we’re increasing frequency, expanding service, and maintaining and improving bus and rail vehicles and systems. We’re also enhancing the quality of the rider experience through technology, information and amenities.
Our Fiscal Year 2017 budget continues to focus investment in expanding service and improving system reliability. We plan to add service in September and March of each year over the next 10 years, funded in part from the increase in the employer payroll tax that is being phased in over the next decade. Service priorities include improving reliability, better matching rider demand, connecting people with jobs, starting service earlier and ending it later, and easing crowding.
Bus service hours will increase over 65,000 hours in 2016–17 (a 4.3 percent increase for whole bus system). Approximately two-thirds of these new hours will be dedicated to expanding service, and one-third will go toward relieving overcrowding and improving reliability. This means riders will see more bus service on weekdays and/or weekends on eight bus lines: 4, 32, 36, 63 and 71 in September 2016; and lines 20, 21 and 155 in March 2017.
Improving current service
To prudently manage public resources, we prioritize near-term service improvements for investment and implementation each Fiscal Year through our Annual Service Plan, which addresses maintenance, optimization, and new and enhanced service.
Investments in capacity and reliability of existing services to help reduce crowding and make travel times and service more predictable.
Each year we direct available funds to help maintain the quality of existing service. These changes generally fall into two categories: overcrowding (measured by peak passenger loads) and unpredictable service (measured by on-time performance). Our long-term budget forecast includes resources for both categories. The application of these resources, if available, is determined each year based on an annual review of performance for every line in the system.
Some lines and trips have schedules that are stretched to the limit, with too many buses running behind schedule due to heavy traffic. This leads to unpredictable service that doesn’t serve riders’ needs. When resources are available, quarterly adjustments are made to address unpredictable service. These improvements also help ensure that our operators get adequate time for breaks from the demands of negotiating traffic and maintaining safe and on-time operations.
Some lines have trips where the buses or trains are overloaded. Popular lines will always have standees, but the trips with the highest ridership have such heavy loads that, at times, riders cannot board and must wait for later trips. When individual bus or MAX trips regularly experience overloading, we add trips to help meet the demand.
Investments in frequency and route restructuring to optimize existing service to make it faster and more convenient.
Each year, after addressing basic system maintenance needs, we look for opportunities to optimize existing services. If previous years saw service cuts, especially to Frequent Service lines, this step includes restoring service to policy levels. Because they benefit the most riders (carrying 75 percent of weekly trips), MAX and Frequent Service bus lines and MAX have been the highest priority when funding is available to restore service. By September 2015, we fully restored the Frequent Service bus and MAX network after service was cut during the Recession. This meant we again have 15-minute or better service through much the day, every day of the week. As of FY2016, we have also been able to increase overall service levels (in terms of service hours) to above pre-Recession levels. Meanwhile, some lower-performing routes or low-ridership segments of routes were not restored in favor of other higher demand lines.
New and enhanced service
Investments in new and substantially reconfigured lines and increases in existing service, including increases in frequency and earlier morning and later evening service, to make progress towards the visions for the future of transit described in Service Enhancement Plans.
We are working to address the growing need for services around our region. The TriMet Board of Directors recently approved an increase in the employer payroll tax, the largest source of our operating budget. We are moving quickly to invest these new resources into the new or improved services identified in our Service Enhancement Plans. The new revenues will allow us to expand bus service, fund the purchase of new buses, and hire more operators, mechanics and operations staff to deliver the new and improved service.
We began our first year of enhancements last winter by phasing in expanded service, followed the addition of by new service in spring, summer and fall of 2016. For future years, We expect to enhance service each spring and fall. This allows time to hire more operators and mechanics and buy new buses, which typically take about 18-24 months to be delivered. Each year, We will conduct an annual process to get feedback from the public, local governments and other stakeholders on the upcoming fall and spring service proposals.
Highlights of recent service improvements include:
- In fall 2015, a new service called North Hillsboro Link began connecting to the growing jobs in the North Hillsboro area. The service helps address the “last mile” connection issues in suburban employment and community areas. We were able to facilitate North Hillsboro Link using passed-through federal funds targeted for these types of job connectors. The service is similar to the successful Grove Link and Tualatin Shuttle, which are also operated by Ride Connection.
- In March 2016, we added bus service on high-ridership lines throughout the region, including service that starts earlier and runs later to help get workers shifts, as well as more mid-day frequency.
- In June 2016, working with the communities of Tualatin and Sherwood, we launched the first direct bus line between Tualatin and Sherwood. The new Line 97-Tualatin/Sherwood Rd connects residents to jobs and services along the corridor between the Tualatin WES Commuter Rail Station and the Sherwood Market Center. It serves important employment and retail sectors including Tualatin’s downtown and industrial areas along Tualatin-Sherwood Rd, and major retail destinations in Sherwood.
Improving the quality of the rider experience through technology, information and amenities
We’re continuing to make improvements to our ticketing technology, information tools and amenities to make transit easier and more convenient for our riders.
We’re building a new, state-of-the-art electronic fare system that will make it faster, easier and more convenient to ride the bus or train. The new program is called Hop Fastpass™ and, when the system launches in 2017, riders who want to will be able to choose from a variety of easy payment options including a transit-only smart card, contactless bank card and smartphones with contactless payment technology built in. Riders who don’t want to use the Hop Fastpass system will still be able to pay their daily fare in cash on the bus and receive a paper transfer.
There are other benefits of the Hop Fastpass system. We are increasing the number of retail outlets around the region four-fold to make it easier to buy Hop Fastpass cards. Places like convenience stores that sell gift cards will also sell and recharge Hop Fastpass cards, so most people will have convenient access whether they have a bank account or not. Another benefit for frequent transit users and low-income riders is daily and monthly caps on fares paid. For example, riders who use the Hop Fastpass system for two full-price trips will be able to ride free the rest of the day. Similarly, after using the Hop Fastpass card for the equivalent cost of a monthly pass, all rides beyond that would be free for the remainder of the month. Essentially, the Hop Fastpass card allows riders to buy daily and monthly passes one installment at a time—making discounts accessible to those who can’t currently afford a daily or monthly pass up front.
We have worked with local mobile payment provider GlobeSherpa to develop (at no upfront cost to the agency) the TriMet Tickets app, the nation’s first mobile ticketing system for an entire transit system that lets riders purchase and use fares instantly on their smartphones (iPhone and Android). Riders responded enthusiastically, and in little more than seven months after rolling out the app in September 2013, the number of downloads had rocketed to more than 200,000, surpassing our first year goal by over 600 percent. As of June 2016, almost 320,000 riders have downloaded the TriMet Tickets app, and more than 8.5 million tickets have been purchased.
While we transition to the next generation of ticketing technology, we’re continuing to focus on improving the reliability of our ticket vending machines. The investment is paying off with reliability consistently at 98 percent or better. To reach this figure, we replaced and updated machines and parts throughout our system, and increased the staff dedicated to maintenance. The improved performance has resulted in a drop in rider complaints by over 50 percent.
In 2013 we switched to a new state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location system (“CAD/AVL” for short). The new system improved bus tracking and performance monitoring. It also meant more reliable arrival information from TransitTracker, as vehicle locations are now updated about every 30 seconds. Our new bus radio/dispatch system now gives us the technology to automatically send information to TransitTracker when a bus trip is canceled, eliminating most “ghost buses.” We are now extending these efforts to the light rail system, starting in 2016 with a near-term strategy of adding Portable Data Devices to our light rail vehicle cabs. These will provide scheduled, actual and projected time to operators to help improve reliability and on-time performance. In FY2017, we are planning to begin adding an Internet of Things Gateway to light rail vehicles that will provide real-time GPS and other diagnostic information on vehicle performance and condition. This will allow for more accurate TransitTracker information about MAX train locations, while also furthering our effort to improve light rail reliability and on-time performance.
Other improvements to the rider experience include investing in more digital information displays to provide service information at stations that currently have none. Many of the new screens will be installed at MAX stations throughout the system gradually through 2017. Additional sign displays will be installed in conjunction with other TriMet projects, including the Blue Line Station Rehabilitation project.
Bus stops will receive either new or updated Stop ID customer information displays throughout 2015 and 2016, completing the application of Stop IDs to all locations throughout the system.
Our online trip planner has information about service alerts, travel and walk times, transfers and cost, making it easy to plan a trip. We’ve redesigned it to be smartphone-friendly, as well.
In addition, our Bus Stop Development program will continue to replace or refurbish shelters and amenities, as well as install new shelters and seating, solar lighting, pavement and other pedestrian access improvements, including rapid flash beacons at key crossings. FY2017 marks the beginning of a 15-year program to refurbish MAX Blue Line station elevators. Typical life expectancy of elevators is 25 to 30 years, but actual useful life can vary widely, particularly if elevators are exposed to weather. The FY2017 budget includes funds to design and begin reconstruction or replacement of elevators. Twelve elevators are due for major work in the next 2-5 years, three more are due in 6-9 years and four will come due in 10-15 years. The budget also provides funds to refurbish platforms and finishes at various MAX Blue Line stations.
Enhancing the culture of safety
Safety guides all of our operational, planning and strategic decisions. We consider safety to be more than just a priority; instead, TriMet employees embrace safety as a value that is essential to all our efforts.
Safety Management System
We continue to implement a Safety Management System, a key component of our culture of safety which focuses on proactively avoiding risks. It requires both self-examination and promotes continuous safety improvements by using formal methods to 1) predict hazards, 2) gather feedback from employees and 3) collect meaningful data. We continue to hold annual safety-focused training for all operators and supervisors, plus we have a Request for Safety Assessment process in which employees can raise concerns. The information gathered from these channels is analyzed and assessed to identify and control safety risks. Such a system allows us to share knowledge and information, and determine the need for further action. Ultimately, it continues to guide us toward the culture of safety we envision.
In FY2016, highlights of our continued investments in the overall safety of our system include:
- Installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on WES. PTC is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration and requires a train control system that prevents collisions caused by human error, including train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and the movement of a train through a switch that is in the improper position. Many of these safety features are present on the current WES system, but new federal regulations require upgrades. We will be testing the system after installation in hopes to secure Federal certification later this Fiscal Year, well in advance of the 2018 deadline.
- All of our MAX stations now have security cameras, in addition to the cameras in place on all MAX trains and buses. The cameras serve as a valuable tool to deter crime and to help locate, track and prosecute people who commit crimes on the transit system. FY2017 continues the multi-year project to replace analog CCTV technology on our buses and older light rail vehicles with digital technology. (Our new buses and Type 4 and 5 light rail vehicles already have this technology.)
- Pedestrian crossings will be improved along the MAX Blue Line to make riders more aware of approaching trains. Improvements will be made at NW Division and NE Hood streets in Gresham, and in Beaverton (at SW 170th Ave) and in Hillsboro (at SW 185th and SE 10th).
Ensuring our riders’ security
TriMet and its Transit Police Division use community policing to reduce and discourage crime on the transit system. In addition to using Crime Prevention through Environment Design (CPTED) standards of open sightlines and good lighting, we rely on security tools that include key partnerships and a neighborhood approach to crime prevention.
This comprehensive approach keeps our system safe for our riders and employees. More than 60 transit police officers, operating out of four precincts, are assigned to patrolling, conducting missions, arresting and processing suspects, conducting follow up investigations, conducting surveillance and responding to calls for service related to TriMet. In addition, contracted security personnel and our operators, supervisors, customer service staff and maintenance workers also provide a presence throughout the system. Last year, we added a crime analyst to the Transit Police ranks, allowing Transit Police to more quickly identify trends and shift strategies, putting officers on the system in locations and at days and times where incidents were reported most. At the same time, we are working with local experts to develop a training module in cultural competency intended to improve interactions between our employees and the diverse customers we serve daily.
Our Transit Police Division has also developed a new approach to increasing security on and around the TriMet system. These “Transit Response Teams” use plainclothes and undercover officers along with traditional uniformed officers to help deter criminal or inappropriate behavior on the transit system. Transit Police officers also conduct Operation Bus Safe missions — random, unannounced patrols of buses — to add a visible presence on the bus system.
We have also added 16 staff members to our fare enforcement team since FY2011. In addition to checking fares, these supervisory staff work with police and others to identify and address real and potential problem areas. These efforts are showing results: In 2015, crimes reported by our riders on board or at stations and stops dropped more than 40 percent. Reported crimes involving customers’ vehicles at Park & Rides decreased as well, by 26 percent. With less than one reported crime a day, crime on the system remains low, especially in the context of the 100.3 million rides we provided last year.
Theft continues to be the most frequent category of crime reported by our customers on the system, though theft dropped 52 percent between 2014 and 2015, from 275 to 132 incidents. The majority of reported thefts involve items left unattended or left behind, or lost and not turned into Lost and Found. So with reported thefts down, riders appear to be paying attention to our “Protect Your Stuff” outreach as well as awareness missions by Transit Police officers.
Keeping the MAX system in good shape
As our MAX system turns 30 years old, we continue to invest in maintenance and infrastructure to improve safety, reliability and on-time performance. This includes incorporating industry best practices and implementing the recommendations related to system reliability.
Some of the major State of Good Repair improvements planned for FY2017 include:
- Replacing switches and realigning the trackway at the Rose Quarter beginning in August 2016 (this follows similar work along 1st Avenue in Downtown Portland completed in May 2016)
- Replacing switches and reconstructing rail at SW 11th Avenue in Downtown Portland in 2017
- Completing design for reconstructing MAX trackway over the Steel Bridge (construction will take place in FY2018)
- Beginning a four-year replacement of overhead power contact wire on the original MAX Blue Line between Cleveland Ave in Gresham to Lloyd Center
- Upgrading and repairing platform areas at Gresham City Hall and Washington Park stations
Buying new buses
Riders will benefit from 50 new buses being added to our fleet in FY2017. By the end of the fiscal year, we’ll have a total of 376 new buses on the road over the last five years. We’ve accelerated our annual bus purchase program and are quickly moving away from having one of the oldest fleets in the country toward the industry standard average fleet age of eight years. We fell behind during the Recession, when bus replacement was suspended and resources were focused on retaining as much service as possible.
As of FY2017, we will have replaced all of the remaining high-floor buses in the fleet (those with steps at the door). The new buses are also more efficient and have much lower emissions compared to the older buses they are replacing (95% reduction in nitrous oxides and 98% reduction in particulate matter).
Advancing bus technology
We expect that the transit industry will ultimately transition from buses with conventional diesel engine propulsion to vehicles with battery-electric propulsion. The promise of all-electric buses is not only zero emissions, but transformation of bus maintenance requirements per vehicle mile due to simpler drivetrains and the absence of fueling and exhaust systems. As industry experience and utilization of all-electric buses increases, we expect that better, more diverse all-electric buses will become available, performance and reliability will improve, and costs will continue to decline (especially for battery storage, which is the primary driver of higher current costs).
To gain initial experience with these vehicles and to prepare for a longer term transition, we have sought grant support from the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission (“Low-No”) Vehicle Deployment Program over the past few years. We plan to purchase four all-electric buses with the Low-No grant we were awarded in July 2016. The buses would be deployed on routes that match their charging requirements on a test basis to determine whether further expansion of the electric fleet is cost-effective and meets customer service requirements.
Completing the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project/MAX orange Line
The 7.3-mile MAX Orange Line opened Sept. 12, 2015, on time and under budget. The Orange Line expands the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations. Along with the light rail opening, additional service and better frequency were added to bus lines in the same corridor, making access to the Orange Line more convenient and offering travel benefits to communities beyond the Orange Line stations.
Crossing the Willamette River with a new transit bridge
The first span in the U.S. to allow pedestrians, bikes and transit — but no cars — Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, opened in September 2015. The MAX Orange Line, Bus lines 9-Powell Blvd and 17-Holgate/Broadway, and Portland Streetcar use Tilikum Crossing. Cyclists and pedestrians use the bridge to access greenways and bike routes on both sides of the Willamette River.
Tilikum Crossing adds capacity to our system and improves access to important destinations such as PSU, OHSU, the Central Eastside and OMSI. At the same time, it reduces commute pressure on Portland’s other bridges.
2. Ensuring financial stability
Strengthening our financial foundation
We are working hard to control costs. Our Strategic Financial Plan calls for tight fiscal controls that allow us to add service, invest in the system and meet our obligations. This plan provides a clear blueprint for financial and operational decisions and is focused on the long-term sustainability and predictability of TriMet’s financial future. For example, following the guidelines established in the Strategic Financial Plan, the TriMet board adopted pension funding plans for its now-closed pension plans that are designed to substantially complete funding of the union pension fund within approximately 15 years and the non-union plan even more quickly.
A fair labor contract for our future
In October 2014, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 (ATU) — the union representing the majority of TriMet employees — and TriMet’s Board of Directors approved a new labor agreement. The four-year contract took effect immediately and covers the period from Dec. 1, 2012 through Nov. 30, 2016. While maintaining very competitive wage and benefit packages for employees, the contract also allows TriMet to manage costs and devote necessary resources to critical system maintenance and service. This important agreement put us on a sustainable long-term financial path while providing a fair and comparable benefits package for our employees and retirees. It’s a huge step forward for TriMet, for our employees and for riders, because it means we can come together and focus on our common goal of making our existing service better and expanding our system to meet the growing demand for transit.
Responding to the region’s needs for more and better transit
Our region is growing, and we have an opportunity to make smart investments now to help stay ahead of growth and fight traffic congestion. Expanding transit will connect more people with their community while boosting our economy and preserving our quality of life. The most important factor in our ability to deliver more and better service to the region is the employer payroll tax. To secure additional funding, in September 2015, the TriMet board approved an increase in the employer payroll tax by 1/10th of 1 percent. This pays for new service and the capital financing to support it. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, the current tax rate of 0.7237% will increase to 0.8237%, over the course of ten years, phased in increments of 1/100th of 1 percent each year. All new revenue generated from the payroll tax increase is dedicated to new service, equipment and technology to serve riders. Learn more about the employer payroll tax increase
Making fares fair
Our fare policies are key to our financial stability, as well as the accessibility of service to our riders. In FY2017, for the fifth year in a row, regular adult fares will not be increased and no other fare increases are proposed.
In March 2015, transfer times were extended from two hours to 2½ hours for all bus and train trips. Our ticket/transfer policy requires that a rider need only board the last vehicle of their trip before their transfer/ticket expires — they do not need to complete their trip.
We recognize access to public transit is access to opportunity, so we’ve established Access Transit fare programs. The programs help low-income individuals access transit. We set aside a total of $1.5 million for these programs to improve access for low-income riders, including low-income seniors and riders with disabilities. Through these programs, we provide fares to non-profits and community-based organizations at a lower cost or at no cost, which they then distribute to their clients — this benefits those who need it most.
3. Planning for the Future of Transit
Service Enhancement Plans
In addition to the near-term improvements identified each year in our Annual Service Plan, we have also been working with riders, residents, neighborhood groups, governments, schools and businesses to create a shared vision for the future of transit through what we call Service Enhancement Plans.
Starting in 2012, we began taking a fresh look at how transit service and access to transit could be improved to support current needs and future visions. By working with our riders and neighbors to identify service needs and improvements throughout the region, we can expand service to be more responsive to the community’s needs. Our Service Enhancement Plans directly advance our goal to develop more and better service for neighborhoods, which will support economic development and improve access to jobs, education and other everyday needs. Learn more about the Service Enhancement Plans for reach area
Making new community and job connections
In some areas, businesses and homes are scattered and there aren’t enough people within walking distance of bus stops to cost-effectively provide fixed-route bus service. And in some instances, there aren’t enough roadway connections to allow people to walk to and from bus stops safely. These areas, unfortunately, are often in industrial and warehousing areas where entry-level and living wage jobs are available, but are too spread out to support fixed-route transit service.
However, we have a long history of helping communities by passing on federal funds to other organizations to operate their own smaller, flexible transportation services in order to meet the unique needs of residents and employees. For example, the North Hillsboro Industrial Area has seen a growing number of entry-level industrial and warehouse jobs, but does not have fixed-route transit service. Ride Connection, a nonprofit service provider, in partnership with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the City of Hillsboro, Washington County and the State of Oregon, was able to launch the North Hillsboro Link job connector because we were able to pass on state and federal grant funds. Similar arrangements with Ride Connection exist in Tualatin, Swan Island and Forest Grove.
Improving access to transit
We work continually to improve access to the transit system for those who connect by walking, rolling and riding a bike. Working closely with our partners ensures that we can focus on strategic investments in access to transit.
Pedestrian Access to Transit
Working with cities and counties across the region, as well as ODOT, our Pedestrian Network Analysis Project developed a data-driven system to prioritize places around the region where sidewalk and crosswalk investments will provide a safer and more comfortable walking experience and better access to transit.
This effort guides current and future investments in access, both from TriMet and from our partners in the region, and includes recent competitive grant awards for access improvements on corridors such as SW Barbur Blvd., SE Powell Blvd. and Tualatin Valley Hwy/Oregon Hwy 8.
Blue Line Station and Crossing Upgrades
Riders will continue to see upgrades to 14 MAX Blue Line stations, between NE 42nd/Hollywood and Cleveland, that increase safety and security and pave the way for information displays and equipment for Hop Fastpass, our upcoming electronic fare system. Pedestrian crossings are being improved as well, and shelters at the stations are being upgraded. Trees on or near the platforms have been removed to make room for lighting and improve the line-of-sight for security cameras. This also gives a sense of security for our riders, who will have clearer views of the platform.
We’re also making safety improvements at several MAX Blue Line pedestrian crossings in Gresham — work that began in 2015. The crossings will be realigned to be perpendicular to the MAX tracks and new pedestrian warning systems, lighting and channeling will be installed. This will help pedestrians and bicyclists be more aware of approaching trains.
Bicycle Access to Transit
We have developed our first-ever Bike Plan. Funded by a grant, the plan will help improve bike access to transit, and help guide investments in biking infrastructure and amenities. This includes expanding bike parking options at stations and stops and accommodating bikes on buses, MAX and WES trains. After a period of public outreach and working with stakeholders, the final plan was adopted by the TriMet board in July 2016.
Improvements in bike parking facilities throughout the system are made as needed, and as funding allows, each year. These improvements may include new or additional basic bike racks, covered bike parking, bike locker upgrades, or secure and enclosed Bike & Ride facilities.
We also regularly seek grant awards for key bike parking improvements at strategic access points in the system. One recent highlight of a grant award is the current Westside Bike & Rides: Access to Employment project, funded through a ConnectOregon V grant from the State of Oregon. This allows us to make enhanced bike parking improvements at the Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson St and Beaverton Creek MAX stations. This will allow cyclists to park their bikes at secure locations before traveling through the Westside tunnel, which is one of the most congested parts of the MAX system for bike access.
Building partnerships for high-capacity transit plan
TriMet is a partner and the design lead in the planning effort for the Powell-Division corridor. In 2014, Metro launched the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project to look at business and housing development opportunities, along with potential transit capital improvements, in the Powell Boulevard and Division Street corridor. The next year, the project’s Steering Committee adopted a transit action plan calling for a high-capacity bus transit project in the corridor.
In October 2015, the project was approved by the Federal Transit Administration to move into Project Development, the phase which prepares the project for a federal grant application, final design and construction. As part of the process, the Steering Committee finalized the definition of the future transit project — this included reaching decisions on routing, station locations in relation to the transit network and underlying service.
After reviewing travel time for the project traveling on outer Division St. and inner Powell Blvd., the project Steering Committee elected to move forward with a project that would stay on Division St. between Gresham and Downtown Portland.
The Steering Committee reached an agreement on a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) that included the Division St. route in November 2016, and project partners — the City of Gresham, the City of Portland, Multnomah County and TriMet — approved the LPA in December 2016. This enabled the project to enter the required federal environmental review process. The design and construction phase of this high-capacity bus project is now being led by TriMet as the Division Transit Project.
The current Line 4-Division is one of the highest ridership routes in our system, with over 10,000 daily riders. It travels from Gresham Transit Center to Downtown Portland on a roadway that changes from four lanes to two lanes. This makes it a great candidate for an arterial high-capacity bus project, since the design could be nimble and change with the character of the roadway and the neighborhood. For example, larger stations with improved access and more amenities could be incorporated in east Multnomah County on the four-lane section where infrastructure needs are great and improving pedestrian safety is a top concern. In the roadway west of 82nd Avenue, stations would be smaller to fit in with the existing streetscape, and the longer buses with more capacity could handle the high demand in this area.
The Division Transit Project will improve service reliability and include stop spacing that allows riders to get to their destinations quicker and more comfortably. This project will also include changes and upgrades to our garage facilities to accommodate the storage and maintenance of 60-foot articulated buses. These new buses are no wider than the buses in our fleet now, but they carry 60 percent more passengers.
Along with the project’s Steering Committee and Metro, we also recognize the significant challenge of addressing congestion, safety and pedestrian facilities on Powell Blvd. We will continue to look for ways to make these improvements along the corridor — for example, we are partnering with ODOT to apply for a federal TIGER grant that would provide funding for sidewalk improvements on outer Powell Blvd.
To help address the challenges along Powell Blvd., as well as other areas in East Multnomah County, we developed an Eastside Service Enhancement Plan by working with the public and neighbors east of I-205 to create a shared vision for future transit service. At the same time, we led efforts to get more funding for sidewalk and crossing improvements on the east side. Our goal is to help create a comprehensive set of improvements for transit and access to transit on the east side.
We are also a partner in the Southwest Corridor planning effort led by Metro. The cities of Tigard, Tualatin, King City, Beaverton, Durham, Sherwood and Portland, along with Washington County, Multnomah County, ODOT, TriMet and Metro, are working with the public and neighbors in the corridor to develop a community vision and to address regional goals. The planning process should result in an agreement to achieve the vision through transportation and community-building investments. We are also coordinating these planning efforts with our vision of future bus service as outlined in the Southwest Service Enhancement Plan.
During 2016, the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee and partners worked with the public to select the most promising transit, roadway, bicycling and walking projects for each of the communities along the corridor. The committee chose light rail as the preferred mode because it proved to have much more long-term capacity to address travel demand in the growing corridor. This is due to the ability to tie into the existing light rail tracks on SW 5th and 6th avenues. The committee also decided not to continue studying a light rail tunnel to the Portland Community College Sylvania campus, but instead to work with the college and the community on other ways to improve access to the campus — this could include connections to the future light rail line. The committee also chose to continue studying Bridgeport Village as the most promising southern terminus for a MAX light rail extension, removing downtown Tualatin from consideration.
In fall 2016, the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project entered a federally required environmental review process to produce a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). A DEIS is a detailed study of the positive and negative impacts that a proposed project could have on the built and natural environments, and it also recommends strategies for minimizing or avoiding adverse impacts. The DEIS studies the impacts of the remaining light rail alignment options along with pedestrian, bicycle and roadway projects that could be constructed with the light rail project. The Steering Committee hopes to define a Locally Preferred Alternative by the end of 2017.