A plan for ‘Better Bus’ on 82nd Avenue begins (again)

Surely we can fit bus lanes here. Right? Right! (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Metro High Capacity Transit Corridors map (bright green are Tier 1).

A plan to bring faster and more reliable bus service to 82nd Avenue has started in earnest. The effort will be led by Metro in partnership with the City of Portland. Initial planning stages are underway and Metro says they have an eye toward bringing a version of TriMet’s new Frequent Express (FX) service to this former state highway (you might recall that the City of Portland became the official owner of 82nd Avenue when the jurisdictional transfer from the State of Oregon was completed in April 2022).

82nd Avenue is home to TriMet Line 72, which has the highest ridership of any bus line in the Portland area. It carries an estimated 8,500 riders on an average weekday and runs from Clackamas Town Center to northeast Portland’s Roseway and Sumner neighborhoods. Improving bus service on 82nd has been identified as a top priority in the Regional Transportation Plan and Metro’s High Capacity Transit strategy lists an FX-style bus (like the one TriMet just opened on SE Division) alongside four other Tier 1 projects: Southwest Corridor MAX, Tualatin-Valley Highway FX bus, Interstate Bridge MAX and Montgomery Park streetcar.

If this feels like deja-vu that’s because we’ve been here before. There was a serious look at bus rapid transit on 82nd as part of the initial plans for the Division Transit Project in 2016 (back then it was called the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project). But it was scrapped at that time because ODOT wasn’t ready to restrict driving capacity on 82nd that would have been necessary to speed up buses (and the options to widen the street were consider too expensive or politically infeasible).

Now we’ve got another chance to do something big on 82nd. And this time around, ODOT won’t have nearly as much say in the matter since they only own the portion of 82nd from the Clackamas Town Center to the city limits.

In a factsheet published back in October, Metro wrote:

Bus rapid transit service would significantly improve travel time, reliability, and comfort by allowing the bus to separate from or bypass other vehicle traffic in key areas along the route and improving stations.

Metro’s High Capacity Transit strategy specifically calls out projects that “provide better alternatives to driving that encourage new ridership in support of the region’s climate goals.” Metro, which thinks of high capacity transit as the “backbone” of our regional transportation and growth plans, has been putting the pieces in place for major transit investments since 2009 when they adopted their Regional High Capacity Transit (HCT) System Plan. In an update of the 2018 Regional Transportation Plan they introduced the Enhanced Transit Concept, which they now call “Better Bus.”

The “better bus” project on 82nd has even more momentum right now because it’s being timed to take advantage of the $185 million pledged by ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation as part of their Building a Better 82nd Avenue plan.

The timeline is to develop the design concept now through this spring and then a steering committee will identify a locally preferred alternative this summer. Local and regional governments will be asked to adopt the project this coming summer and fall. Metro will apply for federal grants and begin the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process will in 2024 and it is scheduled to open in 2029.

Get plugged into the planning effort and learn more at Metro’s website.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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blumdrew
1 year ago

BRT service on 82nd would be great, but I think just regular bus lanes + articulated buses is plenty. Do we really need to have a long drawn out planning process for this? I mean it seems pretty insane to have to wait 6 years for bus lanes!

I also want to point out that while it’s true that the 72 is the highest ridership route, it also is the route with the most total buses per day (outside the still-new FX2 which data is not available for yet). In terms of Rides Per Revenue hour (think normalized for level of service), the best performing route is actually the 73 (on 122nd Ave) with 31.7 on weekdays (the 72 is at 30.5, good for 4th place). Data is from this pdf – https://trimet.org/about/pdf/route/2022spring/route_ridership_report_(sorted_by_route)_weekday.pdf (available in the Route Ridership section – https://trimet.org/about/performance.htm).

Matthew
Matthew
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Yes, I was quite energized about the project until the final paragraph. 2029? As you say, 6 years seems an inordinate length of time to complete a project to bring faster and more reliable bus service to 82nd.

curly
curly
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew

It took 8years to get TriMet’s FX project completed. Planning started in 2012. Advocacy started well before 2012.

This project starts with a $185 million budget that PBOT has to spend, or lose.

We can only hope this project will be more of a showcase project for BRT. The Division St. FX is but a band aid on a facility built for cars and trucks.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew

It’s a ridiculously long timeline. It took 3 years to build the MAX Yellow Line.

Jason McHuff
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

There was a lot of planning before that. The original South/North project was in the works in the 1990s.

dw
dw
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

There is a plan in the works to redo 122nd as well. Maybe that will include bus lanes and better service on the 73?

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

There is a Rose Lane study going on right now, I just wish we could get things done a little faster. The 73 has been a very popular route for years, and has now had the best post-pandemic ridership recovery. 122nd is a 90 foot wide ROW street too, so one would think it would be straightforward to put a bus lane on it!

cMckone
cMckone
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Lots of room for Rose Lanes and protected or at least buffered bike lanes. Definitely seems like an easier project than 82nd.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago

ODOT still owns 82nd Ave from the city limits to Clackamas Town Center, so they are still going to be very involved in this bus project and will have a say over that portion.

curly
curly
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

As will Clackamas county. Very similar to the I-205 portion of the Green Line where we received a major upgrade of the I-205 MUP. Grade crossings of the MUP were replaced by flyovers and a tunnel to connect Clackamas Town Center to everything north to, and across, the Columbia river.

This project is a Metro led transportation project. https://www.oregonmetro.gov/public-projects/82nd-avenue-transit-project

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 year ago

I’m wondering why FX (or maybe FX-lite) service can’t start right away (like, in 2024) with articulated buses serving limited stops. The route isn’t really up for debate: 82nd Avenue and Killingsworth from Clackamas Town Center to Swan Island. There might be a question as to whether the line should stay on Killingsworth instead of jogging over to Alberta between MLK and 30th, but that could be figured out later.

Do we really need to wait until there are full-on FX-style stations at every stop before starting the service, when wheelchair boarding will be through the front door anyway and the hop card scanners on on board the bus anyway? Try-Met could order more buses and start running the line as soon as the buses arrive. It could finish the lane and station and shelter and signal upgrades over the next few years.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Douglas K.

I think the issue is that Metro/TriMet et. al rely on federal grant $ to do these projects, and that grant $ is usually tied to “sexier” projects.I think this is dumb personally – but it’s a result of underfunded transit agencies, and part of why TriMet aggressively pursues big capital projects. I would doubt that TriMet has the budget to buy new buses without it being tied to a grant, that probably would have new stops/BRT looking elements to it.

Honestly, this isn’t even just a TriMet issue – I mean look at the MTA in NYC. They have spent the last 15 years building multi-billion mega projects that do little to actually improve service (like say $15 billion on the LIRR extension to Grand Central, but still not having any through running trains between Long Island and points north).

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

My crank theory is that we’d get a lot of projects done faster, and probably for lower cost, if we funded them locally instead of relying on the Feds so much.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

I mean I think you’re unambiguously correct. Having federal dollars is great for projects that are both very good and very expensive, but I think there’s a huge reliance on chasing federal grant $ at Trimet for things that don’t fit that bill. And we end up spending lots of time, money and expertise on things that look attractive to the FTA, but that are maybe dubious for the reality of the Portland Transit Rider. Really when the feds are involved, there’s a “spending other people’s money” effect that bloats costs and adds needless complexity (with maybe dubious real world operational benefit)

EP
EP
1 year ago

Hopefully improvements to bus service infrastructure will result in some type of rebuild of the “crown jewel” of the 82nd transit world; the 82nd Avenue Transit Center. It’s telling to see the treatment of this critical connection between the high-ridership 72 and the world of MAX light rail. Right now it’s a crummy spot with a highway going under (and through) it, and people have to walk around “the wall” to get to the other side of it. Maybe someday it can be rebuilt for the convenience of people using transit, instead of people driving their cars.

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 year ago
Reply to  EP

I’ve wanted Tri-Met to put a second elevator and staircase on the west side of the 82nd Avenue viaduct ever since MAX opened. It would be so much more convenient to walk under 82nd instead of across it when transferring between MAX and southbound line 72.

EP
EP
1 year ago
Reply to  Douglas K.

Hmm, that is an interesting thought. Given current situations though, I’d think under 82nd and the west end of the platform might get a bit sketchy. I would like to see the 82nd crossing made into more of a plaza that’s well-lit, has sound blocking panels facing 84, and has a pedestrian crossing that goes right across the middle of the bridge, instead of people having to skirt around at the north end. Something that’s more intentional and puts the focus on transit, vs. 4 lanes of drivers.

The Eastern Cathay property is for sale. It would be great to see an apartment development go in that triggered appropriate sidewalk upgrades on the west side, and made the approach to the bridge and transit platform better.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  EP

Is there such a thing as a negative system development charge that would favor that outcome? If Metro, or the city, could put some low hanging fruit on the tree maybe we would see that instead of some generic development that would block up the space for the life of the building.

John Carter
John Carter
1 year ago

Interesting to see that the SW Corridor Light Rail is still a tier 1 project despite its failure at the ballot in 2020. I would support this project if it was built like the Interstate MAX (which removed a car lane in each direction to accommodate the MAX) rather than what they proposed (which was a hugely expensive road widening project so they could put in MAX without reducing automobile traffic on Barbur)