Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top 10 Service Improvements // #1 - Hillsboro

In advance of this Thursday's open house where TriMet will be meeting with riders about their plans to expand bus service, I am unveiling my Top 10 suggested service improvements. All of these were explained in my last post, but I will go into some greater detail concerning routings, and rationale. Please note: these are changes I believe must be made for the TriMet system to reach its potential. So read carefully; you might find this information extremely helpful.

Hillsboro is one of the most forgotten cities in the Portland area as far as transit. Its original design was based around the question, "How can we get everybody out there from Downtown Portland in one shot?" It was decent for commuters but not the local Hillsboroan. Then came Westside MAX, which paved the way for expanded service. However, these plans became dated quickly as the city grew and the designs weren't following the flow of people anymore. So after 18 years, it's time to start afresh.

Hillsboro is the fifth most populous city in Oregon, with right around 100,000 people. It is ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse, with thriving communities and growing businesses. Everybody knows how important Intel is to the city (employing 60% of the sum of the employees of the top ten employers); but Hillsboro has many more businesses, from very small to very large, and its economy has continued to do rather well even during the Great Recession.

But did you know that between TV Hwy and Baseline Rd/Main Street, there is no north/south bus route for 4 1/2 miles? This is something long overdue for change.

TriMet has made two major enhancements over the last ten years to lay the groundwork for the future: (1) establishing Line 57-TV Hwy as a Frequent Service line and one of the busiest lines in the system, and (2) re-routing Line 48-Cornell to stay on Cornell from 10th & Main all the way to Cedar Hills Blvd. These routes give you as a designer something to build around.

Currently, there are only three other bus lines that travel into Hillsboro: Line 46 through North Hillsboro on weekdays only, Line 47 on Baseline, 229th, Evergreen and up to Bethany also on weekdays only, and Line 52 on 185th Ave through Tanasbourne. (See TriMet's system map for context). On Sundays, for example, along with the 52, only the 48 (hourly) and 57 (15 minutes) are running through the city. The only major city in Portland with worse weekend service is Tualatin.

So what do we do about it? Below are my suggestions for taking this sorry group of four lines and tweaking them just a little to result in six lines, no lost significant service segments, and all the system coverage any Hillsboroan ever wanted (within reason, of course).

Voila! Your new Hillsboro!
57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove & 48-Cornell
      No changes to these lines should at all come as a shock, as they are already progressing fast along their evolution toward the ultimate goal. Line 57 currently runs every 15 minutes on weekdays (6am-9pm), Saturdays (9am-6pm) and Sundays (10am-6pm), with 20 minute service for most of the surrounding times. Span of service is not an issue. The only improvements that could be made are adding a few more early morning/late night trips, expanding 15-minute weekend service by a few hours, and maybe throwing in a couple of rush hour trippers out of Beaverton TC. All this could be done at one service change at little cost to the agency. Line 48 should eventually be Frequent Service as well, as it provides the other half of the backbone of Hillsboro, as well as the rest of the communities in the west and northwest metro area. The bold lines on this map indicate that these lines, as well as the 52, are Frequent Service.

      Yes, I split Baseline and Evergreen. I know the names go together like salt and pepper, Kelso and Longview, and Kirk and Spock, but these are two roads that really should never have been on the same line. If TriMet wants the "grid" that they envision that looks like East Portland, then there should be four east/west routes: TV Hwy, Baseline, Cornell, and Evergreen. After much deliberation (actually way more than any sane human should use), I concluded that the Baseline bus should be the 47 (and the Evergreen bus the 46) for two reasons: (1) everyone is familiar with saying "47-Baseline..." every time they say the route name, and (2) this way the lines would leave Hillsboro TC the same way as they do now, avoiding confusion.
      My routing of Line 47 is simple. It would leave Hillsboro TC via Oak/Baseline, 10th, and E Main as it does now, continuing on Baseline all the way to 185th. There it would turn in to Willow Creek TC. Would it continue? Maybe. In my current design, I have another line serving Baseline from 185th to 170th. There's really no pressing need for a line down Jenkins from Murray to 170th (only thing there is Costco and Nike, both served by the 67, and in the latter's case, two other lines). So, in my opinion there isn't a need for a bus to run all the way from SE 10th to Cedar Hills Blvd. I should know---I work on Baseline Rd!
      Line 47 would run all week, with 15 minute service during peak hours and 20-30 minute service at other times. With this line splitting the 48 and 57, we now have a logical and efficient east to west system through the heart of Hillsboro.

      I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what I needed to do to get this line to work. What I wanted was a line that ran straight down Evergreen. But I also didn't want to leave out the Griffin Oaks and Brookwood/Main Library sections of the current 46, which serve a significant amount of businesses. Then I had an epiphany: there is almost nothing between 15th and Brookwood due to the presence of the Airport! So, I routed the new 46 to serve all of the current 46 area. I decided that it should travel out of the FairPlex MAX station via Veterans Dr, as it wouldn't skip any stops, it would allow for stops on Brookwood at Veterans (for the area between Main & Cornell) and at Cornell (where there currently are no 46 stops due to inaccessibility, and it would allow for access to anything the City of Hillsboro decides to put on Veterans Dr. Also, it wouldn't serve Dawson Creek Dr or Shute Rd, which is unfortunate. I just couldn't come up with a logical way for the route to pass through and cover those businesses at the same time. Fortunately, Brookwood provides access for most of those businesses at a reasonably short distance.
      TriMet's concept map shows no fixed route service through the Glencoe area. Rarely would I say something like this, but frankly that is absolutely stupid and ridiculous. Look at the above map, particularly the darker area of the background that indicates the city and metro area boundary. Now remove the green line in your mind. Notice how much area is now lacking transit coverage? That would be about 20% of the city, or, taking the average population, about 20,000 people, more than nine legitimate cities in the Portland area! The Glencoe area may have lower ridership, but that's what you get when your bus comes only every 60 minutes at its best. In this case, better service would equal more ridership.
     The big question on everyone's mind will be this: What about all the Intel employees who ride from Bethany to work everyday? Didn't TriMet just make the service change to send the 47 to PCC-Rock Creek for those employees? Yes, they sure did. And so far, we don't have full buses. But never fear! My plan actually works better for you. You see, instead of the Evergreen bus stopping on 229th in front of the Ronler Acres campus, it will stay on Evergreen, where there is another entrance on the north side of the campus. Also, due to it enveloping the current Line 46, it will also serve the Jones Farm campus! So there's two Intel campuses for the price of one (literally). Fifteen minute rush hour service for some parts, half-hour service the rest of the week. I think that with these modifications to the Evergreen line, it will bring a real boost to ridership in all these areas.

      So I bet you were wondering what I did with 229th Ave. Trust me, it didn't get forgotten. Actually, that was where I spent most of my brain matter in redesigning Hillsboro. I wanted a main north/south line, but I didn't want to leave Brookwood out. Once I realized that I could have the 46 serve Brookwood by the Main Library, all the pieces started coming together. Actually, the same logic that I used for Evergreen was applied to this line. You see, there literally is nothing on Brookwood between Cornell and E Main. One street starts just north of Main, but that's in walking distance from Main. Look at Google Maps. See? There's not even a house on Brookwood right here. So, therefore, no reason for a bus line. So then it hit me: Why don't I send the bus from Brookwood in the south to 231st in the north? Perfect. So where would it end in the north? All it would need to do is hit Evergreen and meet with the 46. I then realized that I could turn the bus around via Bennett and 235th; it would serve both the north entrance of Intel and the Hillsboro Stadium, something that has never had direct access via transit. And the line would be short enough, it wouldn't need a layover spot. That's all it needs to do in the north.
      What about the south? I started looking at maps and realized that there is a whole new area of civilization south of TV Hwy that has no transit access. I even found the mysteriously missing Witch Hazel Elementary School. Take the bus down to Davis, turn right and you hit River Rd. This would mean all of South Hillsboro, Witch Hazel, and the area around HilHi would have transit! Then I took a daring step further: I had it cross TV Hwy. River Rd becomes 13th, which hits Maple, where the bus can go back across Hwy 8 to Seventh Ave. Then it would get back to Oak and Baseline to get to the transit center. Yes, those turns are a little tight, and you could very easily have it just go straight in from River Rd via Hwy 8. However, I think with this extra coverage it can help increase access to those parts of inner Hillsboro that represent some of the least rich portions of the population. This bus would only have to run every 30 minutes to an hour on weekdays and Saturdays, but you would have the flexibility to put a lot more service in areas where it's needed during peak times: 229th between Orenco Station and the Hillsboro Stadium.

49-Cornelius Pass Rd
      This is the most controversial portion of my concept plan. It also has some of the most logic and benefits. There has been a lot of thoughts and planning on my part to design Line 49. Even a lot of driving as I wanted to make sure I got it right. I live within a half mile from Cornelius Pass, so if anybody should know anything about it, it would be me. I've lived in the same place all my life and have watched the city grow around Cornelius Pass to make it one of the most important thoroughfares in the whole Metro area. And TriMet still doesn't want to put a bus line down it.
      Stay tuned for Part 2 of this ten part series, as I break down in even greater detail all the cool things that make my Line 49 one of the greatest potential additions to a system that is evolving into one of the greatest transit designs in the country.

Do you have any questions or comments? Email me at comments@transitriderpdx.com with any input you may have. Also, if you like anything you see here and want TriMet to hear about it, you can email them and reference my ideas (or submit ideas of your own) at future@trimet.org.

(Image credit: Main Street Bridge, Cacophony via Wikimedia Commons.)

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