“We’re ready to work on increasing ridership once vaccines are available.”
— Jeff Owen, TriMet Senior Planner
Transit in Portland is in bad shape. TriMet ridership numbers are in the tank and have shown no signs of recovery since the initial pandemic plummet. And transit’s most high-powered champion, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, is in the waning weeks of her seat on council after losing her re-election bid last month.
But the Portland Bureau of Transportation is undeterred. The agency plans to launch an online open house for the Rose Lane Project next week (12/9) as a way to build momentum for the beleaguered mobility mode.
“Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the way we get around, including Portland’s transit system,” a PBOT statement released today said. “The Rose Lane Project, however, remains a priority for PBOT. It is a down payment on the future we want. As our city recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic and traffic increases, Rose Lane improvements will keep our most important transit lines running smoothly. This will help prevent the kinds of delays transit experienced by riders in the past.”
At a meeting of the PBOT Freight Committee this morning, TriMet Senior Planner Jeff Owen explained current ridership is at a level similar to when Covid first hit. One reason is because the agency is encouraging people to stay off transit unless they’re essential workers so there’s more room (and less risk) for others. “We’re ready to work on increasing ridership once vaccines are available,” Owen added. He said federal Covid bailout funds have helped TriMet survive in recent months and hinted, “There could be some good news on the horizon from additional transit support from the federal level.”
The vaccine and this additional funding — if both come through — could add even more urgency to PBOT’s Rose Lane Project work.
Launched one year ago, the Rose Lane Project was created by Commissioner Eudaly’s office to put into motion what PBOT envisioned with their Enhanced Transit Corridors plan. Several projects were completed in the first year including prefab bus islands on NW 18th and 19th, and a new bus lane on the Burnside Bridge, SW Madison, and NW Everett. While red, “Bus Only” lanes get most of the attention, Rose Lane projects can include a variety of treatments that give bus, MAX and streetcar priority over other vehicles.
While transit in Portland has lost Eudaly’s seat on Council, it has gained Commissioner-Elect Mingus Mapps. In an interview last month he told me, “I’m a bus guy” and that he has no plans to erase Eudaly’s legacy.
What remains unclear is how the big increase in work-from-homers and general changes in trip patterns might impact TriMet ridership in the long-term. Use of transit has been relatively flat in Portland in recent years and was on a slight downturn before the pandemic hit.
At their upcoming open house, PBOT says they’ll share plans for several new projects they hope to build in 2021. Hopefully they’ll also address the topic of how bike access integrates (or doesn’t) with transit-focused changes to lanes and signals.
Watch this space for the online open house and project reveals. You can learn more at the Rose Lane Project website.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.