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Washington County wants to improve your “first and last mile” to transit

Posted by on October 29th, 2019 at 1:24 pm

Typical Washington County scene. Even if there was transit available (see any?), would you risk life and limb to get to it?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Washington County is growing fast. So too will a host of other problems (congestion, bad air, obesity, social isolation, injury and death) if they don’t encourage more people to stop driving. With wide roads that have ample right-of-way up for grabs, there’s vast potential on the west side of our region to make transit better.

But before people can ride transit, they have to get to it. That’s where the county’s First and Last Mile project comes in.

First and Last Mile is a Washington County planning effort that started a year ago. It aims to inform a forthcoming report that will, “identify a range of potential projects, programs and policies that would support more people to use transit for everyday trips.”

Currently about 600,000 people live in Washington County and it’s one of the fastest growing parts of the state with one resident and 1.3 new jobs coming to the area every hour in 2017. Unfortunately, only a precious few of them — less than 4% — use transit to get to work.

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(Source: First and Last Mile Background Report)

Through First and Last Mile, Washington County staff have been assessing the situation and reaching out to the community to find out what type of new programs, policies and projects might get more people to get out of their cars and onto bikes, scooters, their feet, and ultimately, the bus (or light rail).

Some of the programs being considered.

One of the policies on the project website mentions “slow speed networks” which would be streets where bicycle and scooter riders would feel more comfortable sharing the road with drivers. That’s hard to imagine if you’ve ever tried to use Washington County’s high-speed arterials. The project website also has many ideas about how to encourage alternatives to driving; but there’s not much on how to actively discourage car use.

By Washington County’s own estimates, in order to meet their climate and transportation goals, they must triple transit use in the next 20 years. The evolution of car culture is already so advanced in the county that it will likely take much more than soft encouragement to get people to change behaviors.

If you use roads in Washington County, I strongly suggest you check out the online open house and share your feedback. They plan to wrap up the comment period and planning by the end of this year.

(NOTE: I’ll be in Washington County tomorrow (10/30) to check in on WashCo Bikes and will definitely be checking out other stuff along the way. Stay tuned for a report!)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Grizzly Adams
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Grizzly Adams

I bike along the route where that stoplight is on my way to the max, and that street, Lombard, is very accommodating to cyclists. Beaverton’s problem is it is difficult to get east-west, but north-south is well done. Supposedly Allen from Murray to 217 is being redone and will incorporate bicycle lanes.

I wear many hats
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I wear many hats

I interviewed for two different positions in Washington County off TV Highway. After bike commuting to the sites I retracted my applications.

JH
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JH

As someone who lives on the border of washington county and commutes into Beaverton frequently, it’s kind of a misnomer to identify it with that photograph. Yes, absolutely, TV Highway is a hellish carscape that is unsafe and unrecommended. People in cars hate TV Highway. People in cars hate OR-8/ Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Avoid them at all costs.

But you don’t have to ride on those roads to get to those roads. There are plenty of options to get to transit on safer roads. The person above mentioned Lombard as a way and that east west is hard, but 5th is pretty bike safe and goes relatively residential and parallel to B-H all the way to Murray. (Okay, it inexplicably turns into 6th which is weird but whatever). Hall is okay for parts but horrible for others, but Hocken is pretty okay all the way across the roads.

There are ways, tbh.

The bigger problem is that there are not a lot of transit options from suburb to suburb around Portland. From where I live in Tigard, the suggestion by Google maps to getting to beaverton almost always suggests busing into downtown portland, and then taking the Blue or Red out to Beaverton.

Bryan Ray
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I understand the city is trying to make biking safer but I will always be paranoid sharing the road with drivers because they can get so easily distracted.

Glenn II
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Glenn II

The two biggest employers in the county (Nike & Intel) have rather crappy bus service to their campuses, imagine that. Each of them has enough weight to throw around, that if they wanted good bus service, I feel like they could get it easily. But hey whadda I know. Anyway they currently piece together that “last mile” using bike share and privately-funded shuttles (Nike) and community-funded shuttles that Intel subsidizes/pays into. And or course there’s biking to work on the 45 MPH arterials, some of which even have those “bike lane” things!

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Go Shelley Go!!! [and Team!]

Kittens
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Kittens

As a transit provider I can also state with some authority, that the transit part of the equation also needs some work!

A streetcar derailed today. A relatively minor event which happens with some regularity yet tens of thousands of people were negatively impacted.

Daily I see frighteningly deranged behavior.
Trains and buses are filthy.
Few areas have transit priority.
I could go on and on…

SBOSER
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SBOSER

The top photo says it all Washington county bike lanes just begin and end putting riders at risk.

Lynne
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Lynne

The survey doesn’t ask about walking. Or much about riding. And the comment box is MUCH too small. There is no safe way to get across or along SW Walker Rd east of Hwy 217. None. Yes, I do it, but not a whole lot of people do. The site lines are nonexistent, and drivers move along rather in excess of the speed limit.

Lynne
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Lynne

I will note that the top picture is misleading. K’Tesh is looking north at SW Canyon from right about the (now-defunct) Burgerville. The Beaverton Transit Center is off SW Lombard, the next cross street west of where he’s standing. He can EASILY and SAFELY get to the transit center by turning around and turning left onto Broadway (with a bike lane), CROSSING SW Canyon at the light and riding through the shopping center, which will dump right into the transit center. OR, turn right onto Broadway, right onto Lombard (Also with a bike lane), and follow it to the transit center.

Lots of ways to cycle around that particular area, none of which involve riding on SW Canyon Rd.

rick
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rick

Washington co. needs to invest in paper street trails and stop removing them.

Peter W
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Peter W

To borrow & hack a phrase: “It’s the land use, stupid!”

Washington County, Beaverton, and Hillsboro need to see that biking and walking infrastructure can only get them so far if they don’t also address the underlying problems of local land use (on the neighborhood scale) and urban geometry (on the county & regional scale).

For example, in Witch Hazel Village South, Hillsboro will be allowing 1,300 new housing units, all entirely single family residential detached. Zero offices. Zero commerial. Not a single coffee shop or corner market. [1]

As another example, in South Hillsboro, where the city will build 8,000 units, they’re getting some commercial zoning but zero office zoning. Hardly a land use mix that would encourage living, working, and shopping locally… which helps explain why $300 million is being allocatedfor “new roads to increase options for drivers and [fatten] existing intersections”. [2]

On the other end of the scale, I’ve noticed a fairly common acceptance among county planners for an untenable urban geometry issue. Specifically, the situation where people work in Hillsboro, for example, and live way down on Cooper Mountain or Sherwood for example, and rather than think about how to address the fundamental jobs/housing imblances the county continues to facilitate cross-county (and even cross-state) SOV road trips by allocating huge amounts of money and political capital toward fatter roads. Look at MSTIP [3] – $40 million per Commissioner district in just one cycle, and out of $175 million total $160 million is aimed at just 23 road projects. Or look at the relatively recent push for the zombie Westside Bypass. Or look at the political pressure WashCo and Hillsboro exert in an effort to increase state funding for things like expanding the interstate highways they’ve seconded to serve in place of urban arterials (e.g. I-5 and US-26). As a tangent, one day I’d love to see WashCo rename MSTIP from “Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program” to the “Major Surface-Transportation Improvement Program” and dedicate the money to quantifiably better surface transportation systems for everyone.

That said, I know the bike/ped planners in Washington County are really dedicated and doing their best, so I wish them the best of luck pushing this Hummer up a hill.

1: https://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/our-city/departments/planning/planning-major-projects/witch-hazel-village

2: https://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/departments/planning/planning-divisions/long-range-planning-/south-hillsboro-community-plan

3: https://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/TransportationFunding/what-is-mstip.cfm