Saturday, February 18, 2012

Positives from Negatives- A Paper On Improving the Reconfiguring Route Plan

Hello, readers. As I've done before, I've made a paper on bus routing and service. TriMet has announced route reconfiguring ideas recently, which has potential to do well for the service but currently is presented in a way that would harm service when it could easily do more without spending much money at all. I'm not in support of much anything TriMet does, but I think there is potential for some good things to happen in the system, or at least better than presented. Also, I find it's easier to win in smaller steps than to demand everything at once (which I would absolutely love to do otherwise, and is what deserves to happen) otherwise TriMet will not listen. It's a very unlikable idea, but ultimately it will have to pass.

I'm posting this here in a rough draft because I could really use some feedback. All of the bus riders in the region, as well as the Jason McHuffs and Adri Cs of the map studying and fact checking specialty to give me a logical feedback to make sure my ideas are straight before I email it to TriMet management- hopefully not knocking on wood.

Cameron Johnson.


Positives from Negatives

How to edit the ideas and suggestions of reconfiguring routes to work better for both parties.

Dear TriMet,

As I’ve done in the past, I’ve kept my study on the maps of the system, looking for possible ideas of service improvements. When you released your budget saving ideas, it’s safe to say that I disagreed with most, if not all of them. I was, however, intrigued by your idea of reconfiguring routes, and while I was initially opposed to the idea, I’ve realized that if some edits, adjustments and maybe new ideas were added to the list, then it could possibly be a good idea for the service in general.

From what I’ve seen, TriMet has utilized this idea under the guise that cutting service is the only way this idea would work. I believe that this is not always the case, especially in this situation. I am writing this paper in an effort to show you that there are indeed ways to pull off the route reconfiguring while continuing to provide proper, perhaps better service to the riders and saving around the same amount of money.

Notably through this paper you will find that I stay away from cutting service- for the most part. There’s a relatively large cut in the paper that you’ll probably find as soon as you see the proposal. Worry not, though, for the reason behind that cut is aimed more at safety precautions (and is actually something I’ve brought up in prior papers and still advocate for.)

I hope that you will take this paper seriously as you go forward in your cuts and that it will help you in your decisions.

Cameron Johnson.

Northwest Portland/Saint Johns

It’s pretty easy to see that the cuts in this area are perhaps the most drastic out of any of the other sections, notably because of the suggestion that service along the industrial area north of Montgomery Park and to Linnton and Sauvie Island would be reduced to the current frequency of the underutilized levels of line 16-Front Avenue/St. Johns- a harrowing frequency of 35-40 minutes, rush hour only. While for line 16 in its current state it is somewhat suitable, for a community like Linnton which relies solely on the current line 17 for bus service, it would turn the area into a pseudo-Boring, and we know how things worked out between Boring and TriMet.

The basic fact is that this kind of service is one that needs to have a somewhat reliable frequency, as well as the Sauvie Island Park and Ride. And the industrial business parks are definitely not to be forgotten- they’re among the busiest business areas in the city and there is no alternative for workers if line 16/17 were to stop providing midday, evening and weekend service. This kind of service is especially important for night shift workers, who commonly get to work on the 9pm hour trips and would depart work on the early morning, and at line 16’s current levels that ride will not be able to take place, displacing many workers.

16-Front Avenue/St. Helens Hybrid.

The most relatable line that this line 16/17 hybrid would be comparable to is line 30-Estacada. Like line 16/17, it serves a heavy industrial area, and then goes on to serve several otherwise isolated areas, all on a frequency of anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, six days a week, all day from 5am to 8pm, which is just reliable enough to use in all times of the weekday. If we were to run line 16/17 on a somewhat improved frequency of that (given that it is a busy route, we could run it closer to the current frequencies of the St. Helens segment of line 17) then I would think that we much better off than the current proposal. This would also provide vastly improved service to the densely used and populated areas along Front Avenue between the city center and Nicolai.


Another issue I wanted to address was the way the proposed hybrid would be routed, to connect the Front Avenue segment and the Yeon/St. Helens segment across NW 26th Drive, a stop-less bridge just north of Nicolai and south of 29th Avenue. My concern with this is that by routing it this way, this breaks the connection of Montgomery Park from the rest of Northwest Portland and Saint Johns. Also lost would be the connections into inner NW provided by lines 15-NW 23rd Avenue and 77-Broadway/Halsey (which would be realigned along Everett/Glisan in place of line 17, an idea that I personally support.) These connections would not be possible again until downtown Portland, and only then if the current routing in downtown Portland is altered to be more accessible (more on that later.) Instead of using the 26th Drive connection, I propose that line 16 would use NW Nicolai instead, in order to provide a streamlined connection into Montgomery Park and maintain current service on NW 29th Avenue that would be lost with the 26th Drive format.

With this alignment, line 16 trips would turn left on Nicolai going outbound, and going inbound it would take the exit along NW Sherlock and 21st, just a block south. There is a small confluence of businesses just north of this area, which would no longer be directly served by the 16 but is still less than a quarter mile from the intersection. Providing stops at Nicolai just after Front going outbound and at Nicolai and Sherlock going inbound would help provide a nearby stop for those heading to that destination, and the sidewalk is in good shape currently around that area. Also, most will find an increase in service along that corridor (provided by prior line 17 levels) worth the tradeoff of a short walk.

About four new stops would be needed, and these would be taken from the discontinued sections along Front Avenue. Some stops along Nicolai would already be served by lines 15 and 77, and line 16 would just use those as well. Stops on Nicolai going outbound placed at 29th and 27th would be crucial to connect line 16 to nearby Montgomery Park. The option always stands to have line 16 duck into the stops on 27th and Wardway going outbound, but I imagine it would take an extra minute or two out of the schedule. Line 16 would then turn onto NW 29th to serve current line 17 stops for the rest of the route.

There are several pros to this route as opposed to the 26th Drive corridor, notably a connection to Montgomery Park, lines 15 and 17, and no loss on the current line 17 route. There would be less service on the Front Avenue segments, with more of it being out of reach than already would be, but that’s already hard to avoid and the new segment that would be cut off is within walking distance from potential stops on Nicolai.

With line 16 running at line 17’s frequencies, I’d also argue that it deserves better downtown service than the hard to access loop around SW Oak, which is out of reach of several downtown lines, including those on Salmon, Main/Madison and Jefferson/Columbia. I propose that other alternatives be considered for the line, which would save less money overall; however, I’d argue that the cost saved by moving line 77 from Lovejoy to replace line 17’s inner NW service would mitigate those costs with relative ease.

There are two alternatives that could easily be taken- interlining it with line 10 or running it with other lines along Jefferson and Columbia.

The former idea is as simple as it sounds. Buses would use Front until Davis going inbound, and would access Front via Everett. The route would use the transit mall along 5th and 6th, stopping with lines 4, 31, 32, 33 and 99 Northbound and Southbound. Then, buses would use the Main/Madison streets to pick up line 10’s route to Lents. The buses share approximately the same frequency, so interlining should be easy. On weekends, when line 10 doesn’t run, line 16 would simply U-turn around SW Clay from 5th back onto 6th. This route would be called 16 (or 10)-Harold/St. Helens Rd.

Otherwise, line 16 would fill in some extra service along Jefferson/Columbia, following Naito Parkway with new stops at Ash, Stark, Yamhill and Salmon before following the corridor to Goose Hollow, layovering with line 45 at 16th and Columbia since line 43 no longer will. This would provide the connection to the MAX lines, streetcar and other bus lines of downtown, even if connections are not necessarily direct (the line would be one to three blocks away from lines on Main/Madison and Washington/Salmon.)

The rivergate section wouldn’t need much adjusting- just two smaller details. The first would be that instead of making this a “shuttle”, a confusing enough term, to just give it a number- for this case, line 40-Rivergate.

Second, connections should be set up between line 40 and line 16, so that transfers between the two are smooth and easy. To do this, line 40 would stop at Lombard and Philadelphia and loop around Baltimore, Ivanhoe and Saint Louis, layovering at Jubitz so that the routes can share a stop. These small precautions will make the connection easier even with two separate routes.

I believe that with these suggestions and improvements to the cut in mind, you not only soften the cuts, but you also improve service in other areas, and provide streamlined service throughout the corridor.

North/Northeast Portland

The North/Northeast part of Portland is among the most transit dependent in the city- a confluence of five frequent service routes within a small radius as well as a MAX line, and plenty of lower income areas to serve. It’s that area that would face some very interesting and inconveniencing reroutes, mainly along lines 6, 8, 9 and 70. Seeing as this is a transit dependent neighborhood, such cuts need to be looked at in order to make sure we are not leaving transit riders high and dry.

Line 6-Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Line 6 provides a viable connection between the incredibly busy Martin Luther King Jr. Corridor and the Kenton/North Lombard neighborhoods, also of high activity. These two need a reliable connection, and the current plan would axe that immediate connection instantly- line 6 does not meet with lines 4 and MAX Yellow Line between Downtown and Lombard TC, and even then line 4 is several blocks away. These two are the only immediate connection to Kenton, and people who live along MLK around Prescott simply cannot go all the way downtown to catch the MAX or 4, and otherwise would need to ride 3 buses to get from there to Kenton Library, turning a ten minute trip to one of nearly an hour’s length. It’s something that can’t happen.
To counteract this, line 6 should not run along the Vancouver Way corridor as it is planned to do. But to avoid that, the current service would have to remain with line 8, and currently line 8 is planned to end at Dekum just before MLK. I propose that enough leeway be given to line 6 so it ends just at the Kenton station instead of being completely shortlined.

Simply put, line 6 would run its usual route to N Denver and Interstate. It would then veer right onto Interstate, heading south with a stop just to the side of the Kenton MAX Station. Afterward it would turn right and right again via Fenwick and then N McClellan, with a layover being set up just after the Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, adjacent to a parking lot and a block away from the MAX Station and the center of the Kenton Neighborhood. Then, the route would continue back towards Portland and on its way again. This would ensure that the needed connection would be maintained, as it is a valuable connection between neighborhoods that should not be cut because it is near other routes. Oftentimes, it is because of the different areas that are connected that routes are lined along a similar busy segment, as is the case here.

Line 8-NE 15th Ave

With Line 6 concluding in Kenton, it would be presumed that line 8 would maintain its current route to Vancouver Way and Middlefield and then continue onto Jantzen Beach the same way line 6 is planned to at this time being. This is a good thing, because it would connect the residential areas along 15th avenue to the mall on Hayden Island- a very well established connection. As stated, line 4 of C-Tran will provide a transfer to MAX Yellow Line from Jantzen Beach and back again, and as long as C-Tran fares work on TriMet’s service and drivers avoid any problems in the past of avoiding Jantzen Beach service (although last I heard of that was year’s back, so that’s probably barely a problem) then that will do finely.

Line 9-Broadway, Line 73 NE 33rd Avenue

Connection to the Portland City Center is something that is often necessary for a route to work well. When line 73 was cut off from downtown Portland, it saw a drastic reduction in ridership, and therefore a drastic reduction of service is proposed, which will come with another loss of ridership. Soon enough the route will continue cannibalizing itself until it is removed from service. The same thing is happening to line 24-Fremont, and with line 9 being potentially routed into line 70, it is sure to receive backlash from those in NE Portland who desire downtown service from Broadway and Concordia.

However, there’s a big problem I have with line 9-Broadway. North of Broadway/24th, it is very unsafe. Along NE 24th Avenue, there are constant interruptions by roundabout planters at several intersections. Service along Regents Drive and 29th is not much better, but service along 27th avenue is incredibly unsafe for a bus this size to operate on. 27th Avenue is the size of an average residential street, but line 9 utilizes forty foot buses both ways down this section. One bus can barely squeeze down the road in almost every instance, and there is a very dangerous intersection at 27th and Killingsworth where the route must make a short turn west to get back on 27th, and this has caused several instances where the bus has trouble crossing, and must back up multiple times to fit through, causing many near misses with cars along the busy Killingsworth corridor as well as blocking traffic overall. As much as I hate to remove service, along this corridor it’s simply unsafe to run a large bus with regular service, especially when you risk two of them having to pass each other along this street, a near impossibility.

However, to make up for this cut, I propose that line 9 combines with line 73 at 21st and Broadway, and does not combine with line 70. Instead, line 9 would run on its current segment to downtown Portland via Broadway, and then turn left not on 24th, but 33rd Avenue, and then run on an improved frequency along 33rd Avenue to Sunderland. Service would run at current line 9 levels to at least 33rd and Dekum to make up for the loss of service on 27th Avenue (6 blocks away) and 24th Avenue (9 blocks away at most.)

Service along 33rd Avenue would be, as a result, more inviting than current levels, running at a higher frequency than before and connecting to downtown and SE Portland as it used to. Also to be considered is running line 24 at a slightly better frequency than before to aid those in the Regents/Alameda area displaced by line 9 moving to 33rd, and perhaps extending it down to Rose Quarter Transit Center, although it’s not at a high priority. As well as this, you should definitely consider improving service along 15th Avenue just slightly enough to make up for any migration to line 8.

It would be a tough cut but hopefully it will make the neighborhood a safer place and the promise of improved service will make things easier for those displaced, as well as bring life back to neglected segments of the service.

Line 70-12th Avenue

Taking the other adjustments into consideration, what would happen to line 70 is that essentially, nothing would happen to line 70 as it is today. It would still run along the same segments as before with the same frequency and connections as before.

In regards to service in the Beaverton Area, my questions were addressed at the Open House, and as such I have little to add in this paper. I was told that line 67 would have improved service along 158th and Bethany to make up for the loss on Jenkins and that line 48 would be brought back up to Sunday Service to match the current service along line 89 on Cornell. I suggested running line 67 to Willow Creek along Baseline by Elmonica and its residential areas to interline with line 88 to Beaverton, but was told that service would not be improved on the route if this were to take place.

However, it should not be ignored that service to Willow Creek from Merlo/158th Avenue is more than a mile shorter than service to Beaverton TC from the same station, and therefore service increases on line 67 should not be out of reach at all. I urge you to at least go forward with the current increase ideas and bring the option of line 67 along Baseline to the public for them to provide feedback on.

Line 12-Sandy/Barbur, 71 60th/122nd Avenue and 78-Beaverton/Lake Oswego

I should state that I readily agree and approve of the idea of providing outgoing lines from Parkrose and Tigard Transit Centers to keep line 12 from running late and from running two and a half hours on end, both of which combined takes a punishing toll on drivers of the route. The new line 12 would run trips only seventy minutes of length on average, and that’s much better than the current stage. (I myself had brought the point and idea up before, and it’s good to see it being fulfilled.)
There is the matter of connections from one to the other, which would no longer be one trip. As proposed with line 16/40, I propose the two new routes’ schedules align with line 12 so that transfers to Sherwood or Gresham are done with ease, with both routes arriving and departing at the same time with ample time to transfer.

As for the Sherwood segment, the obvious idea would be to run a new line along the segment. However, I can’t help but think a better idea would be to run a separate line from Tigard not to Sherwood, but along the current line 78 to Lake Oswego. This new line (line 42-Sylvania) would run at the same frequency as line 78 between Tigard and Lake Oswego. Meanwhile line 78 would run along Pacific Highway to Sherwood along the line 12’s current routing, at the frequency it currently runs along itself. A Beaverton/Sherwood alignment is one that would seem practical since there are several roads that run between Pacific Highway and Scholls Ferry or TV Highway but no immediate connection. However, this is definitely an idea you would want to run by the public because this is a large change and the public could want things to remain the same.

Otherwise, in Northeast Portland, instead of running line 71 at its current routing, it would be broken somewhat in half at Parkrose Transit Center. The 122nd Avenue section would run on its own, since it’s a high capacity corridor often brought down by late buses on the west end, and vice versa. The new route (21-122nd avenue) would be only 40-50 minutes long.

As for the 60th Avenue section, still line 71, it would pick up the East Sandy and 223rd Avenue segment every other trip, to keep at the segment’s current frequency. Every other line 71 trip would end at Parkrose TC, shortening the route to 50 to 60 minutes from Clackamas to Parkrose. Otherwise, line 71 would run along East Sandy and 223rd, connecting Clackamas and SE Portland to the outer NE/Gresham areas, a lot more useful than its current horseshoe loop. The full route, on its trips, would be 90-110 minutes total, but there is less of a chance for late buses due to less activity along the Sandy/223rd segment.

The idea is a good one, and it could help shorten one or two other routes in the process as well as establish newer, more efficient connections.


As I hope I’ve shown, the reconfiguring routes could go a lot better if more thought and planning is put into it. It must be taken into account that even if routes reconfigure that does not mean that their presence is unimportant, and you can still improve service while saving money, and just because it can be classified as a cut does not mean that the public cannot still be served properly, something that seems to have fallen by the wayside in previous cuts.

Hopefully I’ve given you at the planning department something to think about.

Thank you,
Cameron Johnson