Bike advocates want to improve TriMet’s Hollywood Transit Center redesign plans

The most recent draft site plan for the HollywoodHub project. (Source: TriMet)

The collaboration between TriMet and affordable housing developer BRIDGE Housing to transform the Hollywood Transit Center (HTC) into the “HollywoodHub” – a redesigned light rail and bus station with a 200-unit housing development and new courtyard – is moving forward. HollywoodHub planners presented their latest design proposal to the Portland Design Commission in July and received positive feedback, particularly for the planned transportation infrastructure changes.

But transportation advocates, who have had several concerns about the HollywoodHub design since it was first made public, still aren’t satisfied with the proposal. And before TriMet constructs such a huge project that could set the stage for the future of transit and housing development in Portland, they’d like to see some changes.

Hollywood Transit Center looking south from Halsey.

Today, the Hollywood Transit Center (HTC) – located on the south side of NE Halsey St between NE 41st and 42nd avenues – is home to several bus and light rail lines, and a carfree I-84 crossing. The Hollywood crossing is the only carfree I-84 overcrossing other than the Blumenauer Bridge 35 blocks west. Despite its usability shortcomings, it’s a popular route because it’s in a transit and destination-rich hotspot. TriMet sees this project as an opportunity to improve the transportation facilities .

The ramp

“The argument that it’s better than current conditions does not necessarily mean that it’s good…I really wish that this would be thought of as the important bike connection that it is within our network.”

-David Stein, Bicycle Advisory Committee

One of the main problems with the current HTC, especially for people on bikes, is the switchback ramp on the north side of the I-84 crossing. This ramp doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements because of its very tight turns that make it very hard to traverse on wheels. The design encourages people biking up or down the ramp to dismount their bikes and walk, which can be an annoying snag in a bike commute and may not be possible at all for someone using a mobility device. So when TriMet announced they were going to redesign the transit center, advocates thought it would be a good opportunity to make some much-needed changes to the ramp.

While developing the design for the HollywoodHub north ramp, planners at TriMet looked at three different options: an elevator/stair combination, a long ramp and a condensed ramp/stair combo (‘stramp’) with switchbacks, which is what they decided to go with. At the August Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, TriMet Project Manager Catherine Sherraden talked about why they went with this ramp over the longer ramp that bike advocates preferred.

“This is intended as a space where you really do have to stop and get off your bike.”

– Catherine Sherraden, TriMet

“The elevator and stairs were very unpopular because elevators are difficult to maintain,” Sherraden said. “The long ramp…had a lot of benefits that people could see. The main problem was that we need the front half of the site as a fire lane. It was not possible to do [the long ramp] and comply with code to create a fire lane for both the 24 Hour Fitness and the new housing building.”

The condensed ramp as currently planned will have two switchbacks compared to the seven it has now, which is an improvement. But TriMet planners say it still won’t be set up for people to roll down without dismounting.

“This is intended as a space where you really do have to stop and get off your bike,” Sherraden said at the August BAC meeting. “We really don’t want people biking down a ramp at high speeds in a short space like this.”

BAC member David Stein said he was disappointed by this design, even though it’s an improvement from the current ramp design.

“The argument that it’s better than current conditions does not necessarily mean that it’s good,” David Stein said at the August BAC meeting. “I really wish that this would be thought of as the important bike connection that it is within our network.”

Bus stop relocation

In addition to the ramp design, advocates have expressed concern about the proposed relocation of the southbound 75 and westbound 77 bus stops away from the transit hub and across Halsey. TriMet says they’ll work with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to make it safer to cross the Halsey/42nd intersection, but critics are unsure.

In a 2021 letter to TriMet, BAC members wrote “the removal of buses from the Transit Center will result in a substantial degradation in the experience for transit riders” and make it more dangerous for people rushing to transfer from the MAX to the bus. The letter also points out that it won’t be possible to provide sufficient for riders on the narrow sidewalks on 42nd and Halsey.

Finding common ground

At the Hollywood Transit Center in 2017, self-described white nationalist Jeremy Christian stabbed three people who stood up to him while he threatened two Black teenagers. Two of the people died and one was seriously injured. To commemorate their lives and bravery, TriMet installed a memorial mural on the HTC’s north ramp. The transit agency says memorializing this incident is a central part of their plan for the HollywoodHub.

“The May 2017 tragedy will inform the design ethos and expression of the overall site, to create an inclusive public space that fosters a sense of belonging,” TriMet states on the project website.

Advocates critical of the project say they don’t want to stand in the way of the HollywoodHub as a concept. Combining dense housing with transit access is a proven way to reduce reliance on cars and make transportation access more equitable, and the goal to create a new public plaza at a space that was the site of such a tragic event is a good one. In the letter from last summer, BAC members wrote they “strongly support building new affordable housing at this location” and “hope [they] can work with the project team to find alternative concepts that provide affordable housing while enhancing the experience for people on bicycles, on foot, and riding transit.”

There’s still time to make changes so advocates feel they’re on the right track. TriMet expects to begin construction on the ramp replacement in early 2024, but the design for the entire project is still conceptual and not yet concrete. We’ll keep you posted on how the HollywoodHub design plays out as TriMet and its partners continue finalizing the plan and seek further city approval.

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Catie Gould (Contributor)
Catie
19 days ago

So there are still…no published plans on how Halsey will be safer? Wider sidewalks with transit shelters? The relocated bus stops are in the one block of unprotected bike lane (not in the rendering!) leading up to the transit center?

I had hoped they would be much further along in answering basic questions, like how you should bike to the transit center safely. Even now, the marked route directs riders onto the sidewalk.

Nick
Nick
19 days ago
Reply to  Catie

Great point, I completely avoid the area currently when biking, and without some access to the transit center/bridge I dont see that changing

foobike
foobike
19 days ago
Reply to  Nick

Agree completely with the parent comments. Since I live near here a bike-only I84 crossing would appear to be highly useful but as it stands now with the awkwardness of the approach including that funky 42nd dog-leg at Broadway, the distracted car traffic around there trying to get in and out of TJs, 24HF, etc, the sub-optimal Halsey crossing and the need to dismount to reach the crossing, not to mention the trash along the way (which seems to have gotten slightly better of late) – unless all of these are addressed I’ll continue to take 47th or 28th.

Still, good that they opted against the elevator. Of course, if you’re on your way to board a MAX with a heavy/cargo/loaded-for-touring bike, you’re still stuck with an unpleasant elevator ride down to the platform. Last time I used it for a bikepacking trip that elevator floor had urine all over and was smelling quite ripe.

Chris I
Chris I
19 days ago

Why does Trimet insist on diverting the 77 over to Broadway for just a few blocks in Hollywood? The turn from 47th to and from Halsey is a mess, and constantly delays the busses. I have sat through 3 full signal cycles on an eastbound bus during rush hour before, as 47th/Halsey does not have protected left turns. Keep the 77 on Halsey!

Matt D.
Matt D.
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

One has to assume that it’s because TriMet planners don’t actually ride their conceived routes.

JR
JR
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I too would prefer a more direct route, but I think there’s a reason for it. Probably has to do with the Hollywood East Apartments – 281 unit Section 8 housing complex predominantly for seniors and disabled, very low income residents. I bike past it regularly and there’s usually someone at the bus stop out front.

Jason McHuff
19 days ago
Reply to  JR

There’s a state DHS office there too

Chris I
Chris I
19 days ago
Reply to  JR

It’s an issue of coverage vs. speed. Do we want a transit system that covers every possible destination with minimum walking, or do we want a faster system? Networks that focus on coverage tend to have poor ridership.

Doug Allen
Doug Allen
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

There are solutions for the 77 that would allow buses to serve Hollywood East with less delay. First would be more intelligent Transit Signal Priority. Supposedly the FX (Division BRT) line will inaugurate a better technology that can be used elsewhere. Eastbound, the 77 could use 45th rather than 47th to get back to Halsey. The routing has nothing to do with whether TriMet planners do or don’t ride their routes.

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
18 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I believe part of the plan with this “improvement” is to have the 77 use Halsey only from 39th to 80th(ish) where it goes off to get to the 82nd MAX stop & then back to Halsey east of 82nd.

EP
EP
19 days ago

It’s so cute how the “FUTURE SULLIVAN’S GULCH TRAIL” and “TRAIL ACCESS” is noted on the SITE plan! Oh, to hope for that future…

This area is a total fustercluck of traffic on Halsey. Plus add in a westbound car trying to turn into Target and things get even more fun. Then there’s the lane of Halsey that goes under Chavez adding to the chaos, too. I’d like to see that closed to cars and turned into bike/walk facility, but we all know how that would go with the current situation under the bridge there. Until Halsey gets some kind of lane re-configuration, this area is always going to be filled with people racing through, swerving around cars trying to turn from the center lanes, and causing crashes and injuries. Halsey should really be one lane of travel with a center turn lane and pedestrian islands, etc. from Chavez all the way out to 60th.

Chris I
Chris I
19 days ago
Reply to  EP

Our neighborhood has been waiting for this project for years. It was supposed to happen this summer, but we’ve heard no updates, and now we’re past the paving season, so I don’t know when or if it is even happening:
https://www.portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/construction/ne-60th-and-halsey-area-improvement-project

Jason McHuff
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

It says “Construction start late 2022/early 2023”. And that “Due to funding cuts, this project will no longer include bike improvements as part of the 60s Bikeway from NE Davis Street to NE Sacramento Street.”

Chris I
Chris I
19 days ago
Reply to  Jason McHuff

I guess it depends on their definition of “late 2022”, but it’s almost October and I’ve seen zero activity on this corridor. No surveys, utility marking, etc. I won’t be shocked if nothing happens on it this year, especially as we slip into the wet season.

Bob R.
Bob R.
19 days ago
Reply to  EP

“Halsey should really be one lane of travel with a center turn lane and pedestrian islands, etc. from Chavez all the way out to 60th.”

If they ever break ground on the 60th/Halsey project, you’ll get most of your wish: https://www.portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/construction/ne-60th-and-halsey-area-improvement-project

Watts
Watts
19 days ago
Reply to  EP

While it sounds great, I can’t see any way to build a safe and usable trail through Sullivan’s Gulch the way things are working in Portland today.

Bikey Bike
Bikey Bike
19 days ago

Glad to see a ramp option, not an elevator! But I’m concerned the “stramp” design leaves many people biking with no better option than what’s there today. Will people riding cargo bikes or other non-traditional bike types be able to navigate the “stramp,” even if they dismount?

Every car-free highway crossing is precious. Any new ramp here will be in place for decades. Would love to see a ramp design that finds a way to meet Fire’s needs while creating a connection that works for people riding different kinds of bikes.

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
18 days ago
Reply to  Bikey Bike

On the odd times I’m crossing, I ride the ramp they have now… not exactly ‘fun’ & is certainly makes a slow go of things…One can do so without dismounting.

EP
EP
19 days ago

What does the “green arrow” ramp section represent on “Option 3: Fully inclined ramp and stairs”, is it a conveyor belt type of thing, or just a steeper/non-ADA ramp? It would be better (& fun) to have a short/steep option to roll down or ride up. E-bikes will make things like a steep bike ramp more of an option for more people.

Watts
Watts
19 days ago

I hope people have figured it out by now: TriMet does not care about bikeists. Again and again they pass up easy opportunities to make bicycling better, even when the cost is minimal.

TriMet is not our friend.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
19 days ago
Reply to  Watts

They don’t even seem to care about their riding customers. It’s all about building grandiose projects that others profit from.

Watts
Watts
19 days ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Or chasing grants, which was the driving force behind the new FX.

Mark McClure
19 days ago

Thanks, Taylor, for updating us on this important project. I’ve been tracking it via NextPortland for a while. I’m eager to see the final project plan.

Coincidentally, I did a photowalk through the Hollywood District on 9/7 and snapped a handful of photos when I was at the transit station. I saw that TriMet has posted a sign with a QR code folks can scan if they want to learn more.

DW
DW
19 days ago

Overall, I think this project is really great and sorely needed. Going from Gateway to the Rose Quarter, you’ve got trains coming every 5 minutes and connections to a myriad of bus lines and bike routes. It’s absurd that the land use in that corridor doesn’t reflect that reality.

A lot of folks have touched on the problem with Halsey and the new bus stops and I agree there. We’ll see what kind of crossing solution PBOT comes up with.

I’d really like to see two things in this particular spot though – secure bike parking and a sound wall for the MAX stop. I like to ride my bike and then catch the MAX from here but there is a severe lack of secure bike parking. The bike link lockers are ok, but kind of a pain to use and have been full a couple of times I’ve tried to use them. Maybe some kind of system like they’ve got at Goose Hollow where you can use your HOP card, but for individual lockers? Anything to deter theft would really juice this as a bike/transit hub.

Regarding a sound wall for the MAX stop – waiting for the MAX at 82nd, 60th, and Hollywood is a really terrible experience with the thundering freeway traffic right next to you. It’s so loud you can barely have a conversation. Even waiting 5 minutes for a train is really unpleasant, and likely to make someone think twice before trying transit again. There needs to be some kind of solution that can mitigate the noise.

ED
ED
19 days ago

I’m very pro-housing and excited to see an underused piece of land transformed to more housing.

But (you knew there was a but), it seems like they are taking all the transit out of the transit center and just pushing the bus stops onto the adjacent, subpar streets. Rather than having a dedicated, car free space where you can walk from one bus stop to another or to the MAX, now many riders will have to cross the streets and effectively turn 42nd Ave and Halsey into an extension of the transit center. I would prefer to see the actual transit center functions preserved with the addition of housing on top.

Chris I
Chris I
19 days ago
Reply to  ED

It would be interesting to see the numbers, but from my observations as a 10+ year resident and transit user in this area, the vast majority of transfers are from Bus to MAX or vice versa. The changes will make the following transfers cross the street:
77 west to 75 north
75 north to 77 west
77 west/75 south to MAX
MAX to 77 west/75 south

They will have to cross the street and walk an extra 50ft, but there won’t be a time penalty, as the buses heading south/west have to wait for the light to turn into the transit center. Everyone else on these buses will save 2-4 minutes on every trip (no looping and waiting for the light on the way out). East/North buses will save 1-2 minutes, and add about 30ft of walking for anyone transferring to MAX.

And we will be activating what is basically a dead asphalt parking lot and housing 200-300 Portland residents. I think this is a net gain.

Turning the 1st level into a parking garage/transit center would make this space feel like the Clackamas Mall Transit Center. Go check that out if you haven’t experienced it.

Doug Allen
Doug Allen
19 days ago

It seems like the ramp and stair option should be given further analysis, to see how to meet code, or apply for an exception that provides equal fire safety. TriMet and the City should consider whether it is necessary to vacate 42nd Ave. through the transit center. Working as partners, the City and TriMet should be able to come up with a better solution. Even minor reconfiguring of the building should be considered.

TriMet should also make every effort to figure out how to keep both the eastbound and westbound bus stops within the Transit Center, since the connection between bus and MAX was the original purpose for creating the site, and the need continues.

maxD
maxD
19 days ago
Reply to  Doug Allen

Agreed Doug Allen! There is not enough information provided to make a recommendation, but based on the small graphic provided, it appears taht there would be ample opportunities to make that narrower and shorter

jonno
jonno
19 days ago

“This is intended as a space where you really do have to stop and get off your bike,” Sherraden said at the August BAC meeting. “We really don’t want people biking down a ramp at high speeds in a short space like this.”

Oh that we could apply the same thinking to areas with dangerous car traffic.

“This is intended as a space where you really do have to get out and push your car. We really don’t want people driving at high speed in a tight space like this.”

Oh well.