TriMet proposal would cut neighborhoods off from all transit service
Plan would eliminate the two-mile loop through Rivergrove and Rosewood
TriMets Bus Line 36 through southern Lake Oswego is not a very busy route. But as the only bus option in the area, its an important transportation link for the small handful of residents who rely on it.
Now, some of those riders in Rosewood and Rivergrove are balking at a recent TriMet proposal to shorten the line by skipping past those areas completely, potentially cutting the communities off from public transit.
Instead of throwing out this route in favor of another route that may or may not increase ridership significantly, while certainly causing great hardship to many who find their lives disrupted, why not give the Rosewood and Rivergrove neighborhoods a fair chance? Rivergrove Mayor Heather Kibbey wrote in a recent letter to TriMet.
The transit agency is still evaluating the change and will likely not make a final decision until May, but it notified riders about the proposal in early February in a letter sent to households near the line. The letter advised residents to attend a Feb. 18 meeting of the Rosewood Neighborhood Association, where TriMet representative Tom Mills outlined the plan and addressed questions from approximately 18 riders and area residents who attended.
TriMet doesnt take this proposed route change lightly, Mills told The Review in an an emailed statement. We know that if this proposal moves forward, that it would have a negative impact to some people in the neighborhood. However, it is important to note that this has been a very low ridership segment of Line 36 for many years.
For a few trips per day during rush hour, southbound Line 36 starts in downtown Portland and travels down Highway 43 to the Lake Oswego Transit Center, which is the starting point for non-rush-hour trips. After leaving downtown Lake Oswego, the bus follows McVey Avenue and South Shore Boulevard, working its way around the south side of Oswego Lake.
The line continues west on Jean Road, then turns south on Pilkington Road and travels through Rosewood to the edge of Rivergrove before looping back north to Boones Ferry Road. It then crosses I-5 and terminates at the Tualatin Park and Ride facility. Northbound trips follow the same route in reverse, terminating at the Lake Oswego Transit Center or continuing to downtown Portland during rush hour.
That final loop through Rosewood is the portion of the line facing the ax.
Under TriMets proposed change, southbound buses would follow the existing route until they reach Jean Road, but then continue past Pilkington Road and use Jean Way to reach Boones Ferry Road. Northbound trips would use the same shortcut in reverse. The new route would eliminate a loop that is just over two miles long and takes buses about seven minutes to traverse on an average trip, Mills said.
The main reason behind the change is ridership, though, not speed. Mills said the Rivergrove loop averages only seven daily boardings and nine deboardings, which by TriMets standards means it is underperforming. And the loop is an added delay for people riding the bus to or from the Tualatin Park and Ride.
Any of us who have ridden the bus can get very frustrated when you deviate out of your way, he said. Especially if youre not picking anybody up.
The change would also bring the bus closer to businesses along Jean Road and Jean Way, which Mills says would make life easier for several workers who currently ride the bus to and from that area and have to walk to stops at Pilkington Road or Boones Ferry Road.
If we were to change the route to serve Jean Way, we would be able to bring workers closer to their jobs (specifically Micro Systems) and support Lake Oswegos plans to redevelop the Jean Road employment area, Mills told The Review.
Micro Systems Engineering spokesman Scott Stoddard told The Review that his company has distributed questionnaires at its Jean Road location to gauge how many employees would take advantage of the change.
(The route change) is something that we are definitely supporting, he said. Realistically, bus transportation is always difficult to presume, but it looks like we definitely have employees that would utilize the service if it were to get relocated closer.
But the proposal was greeted with trepidation from the people who live in the loop area. Many of the riders at the Feb. 18 meeting said that instead of imposing more cuts on Line 36, TriMet should be walking back some of the cuts that have already taken place. There were several complaints voiced about the minimal existing service, particularly in the early morning.
It looks like TriMet is eliminating this loop to be more efficient, said one meeting attendee. To me, what youre really doing is cutting back your service.
Youre not even getting the main commuter hours (now), argued another.
Line 36 currently runs only on weekdays, sending one bus in each direction roughly every 70 minutes, with more frequent trips during rush hour. The first northbound bus leaves Tualatin at 6:58 a.m. and arrives in downtown Portland at 8 a.m, which some riders said wasnt early enough for them to get to work on time. The last southbound bus leaves Portland at 6:10 p.m. and arrives in Tualatin at 7:09 p.m.
Several riders also voiced dissatisfaction with what they perceived as an overly numbers-based evaluation of a public service.
Youre saving money by cutting people off, but your job is to serve these people, said one rider. I dont care if its one (person) or six million youre serving.
It should be about understanding the needs of the community, not ridership, said another. Could we have more riders if we had better service?
Mills replied that TriMet does have data on the subject: In 2007, before the recession forced cutbacks on a number of routes including Line 36, the agency used to run 30 trips through the area each day instead of the current total of 18. At the time, he said, the area saw an average of only two more boardings than it does now.
He also repeatedly stressed that the proposal was not intended as a cost-saving measure. Cutting the loop will result in negligible fuel savings, Mills said, and the biggest expense of running a bus is the salary of the driver, which means the operating cost of Line 36 will remain virtually unchanged. Instead, the intent is to better serve the riders in the Jean Way area, he said.
Its not about saving money, Mills said. Its about trying to get people to ride.
Kibbey and Rivergrove City Counselor Mary Mann were both in attendance at the meeting, and both expressed concern that TriMets proposed change would negatively impact the growth of the city by removing its nearest transit link. In a later email, Kibbey told The Review that TriMets pre-recession data is outdated; she said the city has grown since 2007 and would have more riders today if the line had better rush-hour service.
The City of Rivergrove alone ... has doubled in (population) since these figures were obtained in 2007, Kibbey said. We are very unhappy that the figures used to justify this change are not up to date and truly not fair to the citizens of Rosewood, Rivergrove and part of Tualatin, many of whom depend upon this bus for essential travel.
At the end of the meeting, Mills said that a final decision has not yet been made. TriMet staff are still evaluating the proposal and will develop a recommendation by mid-March. That recommendation will go to the TriMet board, which will meet in May to make a final decision on this and several other proposals.
We appreciate and are still considering all the input weve received from the residents of Rivergrove, Lake Oswego and Tualatin, Mills said.
Getting to Palisades
Rivergrove residents arent the only ones irked by Line 36s minimal schedule. The low frequency of rides also impacts the Palisades and McVey-South Shore neighborhoods.
Last year, Lake Oswegos Parks & Recreation Department moved to the former Palisades Elementary School building, and in the subsequent months the building has been transformed into a vibrant new headquarters for the department.
But theres one problem: its very difficult to get there without a car.
Lake Oswego resident Charles Skip Ormsby addressed the issue at a January meeting of the Citys Planning Commission. He complained that the location of the building and the lack of evening buses had prevented him from attending the City Council Open House that was held at the Palisades building earlier that month.
That site is inaccessible in the evening, Ormsby told the commission. I may get there, but its sort of like Hotel California you cant get back.
Line 36 is the only public transit route that passes anywhere near the location, and a half-mile uphill walk is required to reach the facility from the closest stop. And while Trimets LIFT service is available in the area, its operating hours are tied to the schedule of Line 36. A dispatcher confirmed that since Line 36 doesnt run through the area in the late evening, neither does LIFT.
City Councilor Joe Buck says the problem is an unfortunate side effect of moving Parks & Rec away from its prior centralized location in the West End Building last year, and he says its one of the reasons he opposed the move at the time.