“Anything that will assist someone with not having to use a single occupancy vehicle to get to campus is good.” —Brett Dodson, OHSU
Portland’s array of transportation options converge at the base of the Aerial Tram near the Oregon Health & Science University’s South Waterfront campus.
If you stand on SW Moody Ave outside the lower tram terminal for a few minutes and take a look around, you’ll see: the tram above you; Portland Streetcar rumbling by; the 35 and 36 TriMet buses; Biketown and OHSU bike share stations; and people rolling their own bikes to Go By Bike, the largest bike valet in North America. A glance to the north and you’ll see the MAX light rail, and you might even catch a few people riding by on electric scooters.
This is to say people in the South Waterfront neighborhood and OHSU visitors do not want for mobility options. And though the pandemic presented challenges, the vision for a low-car future is stronger than ever.
Better bike share
OHSU has operated its own Go By Bike Share program free of charge to anyone with a university email address since 2015 , and the service was given a recent revamp with upgraded bikes and a new app making it easier to reserve one.
According to Brett Dodson, who directs transportation and parking at OHSU, about 100 people have made accounts and are using the bike share service since they rolled it out last month.
Dodson says one of the reasons he and his team want to ensure adequate campus transit options is to prepare for the TriMet Division Transit Project expected to launch later this year. This project will bring enhanced bus service to the Division corridor and will become yet another way to get from the east side of Portland to the South Waterfront.
“We’re expecting an increase in employees using that route and bringing additional ridership over the Tilikum Bridge,” Dodson told me in a recent phone call. “We need to have a way to connect them from transit and get them to campus.”
At the Go By Bike valet and repair shop, which recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary, business is picking back up. On May 10, Go By Bike parked 249 bikes, the highest number since before the pandemic hit.
Pre-pandemic, the valet service was nearly busting out of parking space to store people’s bikes. They aren’t seeing those kinds of numbers now, with temperamental weather and teleworking likely partly responsible, but the figures are trending upwards.
New pedicab shuttle
OHSU used to operate a van shuttle service as an additional way to help people get from the South Waterfront to the upper campus, but that went dark during the pandemic and won’t be returning. Instead, Go By Bike will operate a pedicab service – the only one in the city right now – to move people around. Dodson says this option is important for people who aren’t able to use a bike or scooter, and he hopes it will mean no net increase in drivers even in the absence of the old shuttle.
“We haven’t had shuttles for a year and a half, and things have been going fairly well,” Dodson says. “The majority of people are able to get around with bike share, walking and scooters. But the pedicab will be there to replace the shuttle for the people who need it.”
He says we should see one pedicab in operation by July, and depending on how things go, they’ll bring in a second one.
Dodson says the pandemic didn’t change his desire for a carfree future in the South Waterfront and around OHSU’s campus.
“We have a strong transportation demand management plan,” he says. “Anything that will assist someone with not having to use a single occupancy vehicle to get to campus is good.”