The cat is officially out of the bag.
In a story posted this morning, the Willamette Week reported that PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wants to go big for bus only lanes.
In 18 months, Portland streets could see the most dramatic change in public transit since the arrival of the streetcar. All it will take is gallons of red paint.
Deep in the bowels of city bureaucracy, Portland transportation officials under the direction of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly are preparing to debut what they’re calling the “Red Lane Project”: removing miles of roadside parking and traffic lanes from Portland streets to make room for uninterrupted routes for buses.
While this is the first major report of the plan, Eudaly’s office has been working on it behind the scenes since last year. Eudaly’s Director of Policy Jamey Duhamel shared details of it with me back in December. At that stage she wanted help connecting to various community leaders and groups that might be impacted and/or might want to get involved in organizing support for the plan.
The plan also builds on a foundation already built by PBOT that includes the Enhanced Transit Corridors and Central City in Motion plans.
As Portland’s population has exploded, so has the amount of traffic and congestion. Eudaly has decided that faster bus service is the best tool to make streets more efficient. The plan is just the latest manifestation of TriMet and the City of Portland’s growing effort to speed up bus service. Back in November, PBOT’s Central City in Motion Plan was adopted by City Council with several transit-centric projects on its high priority implementation list. Back in May, PBOT worked with TriMet to give bus operators more space at an intersection on NE Fremont and created a bus/bike only lane on SW Madison.
For Eudaly — who’s built a reputation for her work on tenant protection — bus users are the transportation equivalent of low-income renters. And to take that analogy a bit further, drivers would be landlords. Eudaly sees bus users as needing help in a system that is stacked against them. Here’s more from the Willamette Week’s story:
“Transportation intersects very dramatically with all the things we really care about,” says Eudaly’s policy director, Jamey Duhamel, adding that the commissioner and her aides asked themselves: “What can we do within transportation to really affect people’s lives, the most vulnerable in our community? What we heard over and over was: ‘How are you going to get buses out of traffic?'”
In that story, Eudaly said another reason she’s decided to act is that the “clock is ticking on climate catastrophe.”
As for voices that might oppose the plan, it’s worth noting Eudaly’s office has already lined up support for the plan — both on City Council and among myriad community groups (who will no doubt be asked to turn out their members/supporters once the plan is officially launched). Our transportation commissioner has also shown signs that she’s not afraid to start a debate about transportation policy.
Details on the plan are still to come, but Eudaly’s office is likely to choose a list of a dozen or so routes that will be sped up and then implement the changes on a pilot project basis.
Read more in the Willamette Week and stayed tuned for more details, opportunities to give feedback, and how bicycling will be impacted.
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