Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top 10 Service Improvements // #3 - Tigard/Southwest

Part 3 of our ten-part series on proposed improvements to TriMet's concept map sends us into the Southwest suburbs of Portland. Tigard is a city that has a fair amount of transit service. However, it is still lacking in two major areas: (1) lack of service to large sections of the population, and (2) paths of transit and paths of actual people-traffic not going the same directions. TriMet has proposed new routings and connections in the area; I further these ideas and offer new suggestions on equitable and logical ways to make the system work better.

This June, TriMet will begin service on Line 97-Tualatin/Sherwood, the first completely new-service line in the city in years. This is quite significant, since (according to TriMet) there has never been a bus line connecting Tualatin and Sherwood. It will start as a rush hour-only bus line and will eventually be expanded to full service, possibly even running up SW 72nd Ave to the Tigard Park & Ride. Now that this major gap is being filled, we can start to dream about other changes.

Current Layout of Southwest Suburbs
Right now, Tigard TC serves as the major hub in the Southwest area, with bus lines branching out toward Tualatin, King City and Sherwood and other lines interconnecting with Beaverton, Portland, and Lake Oswego. Sherwood has no major transit hub; the two twin bus lines currently serve Langer Dr to Sherwood Blvd, turning around at Old Town Sherwood. Tualatin is even more complicated, with three significant "hubs" (Tualatin Park & Ride, Tualatin WES Station, and Mohawk Park & Ride), with Line 76 as the only major connecting point. WES Commuter Rail cuts through Tigard and Tualatin, stopping at Hall/Nimbus (near Washington Square), Tigard TC, and Tualatin Station near Boones Ferry & Nyberg St. In order to make these hubs effective, we need enough paths directed between them to make transfers reasonable without over-complicating things even more. (Click here to see TriMet's current system map for context.)

Line 12-Barbur used to run from Portland all the way to Sherwood via Tigard TC and King City. During the recession, they split the line at Tigard, making Line 94 serve Pacific Hwy between Tigard and Sherwood and letting Line 12 continue to Portland and Parkrose TC (where it connected to Line 21, another lob-off line). Needless to say, TriMet hastily designed these changes without really keeping the riders in mind, and has spent the last few years fixing what they messed up. Now, two lines run between Tigard and Sherwood: Lines 93 and 94. Line 93 runs between the actual transit center and Old Town Sherwood all week long; Line 94 runs between Downtown Portland and Old Town Sherwood via Barbur, Main St and Pacific Hwy. It stops at Main & Commercial, one block from the transit center, and runs weekdays only. Quite an improvement from the initial changes, but still a far cry from the optimal design.

The 76 and 78 cut through Washington Square and Tigard TC via Greenburg, providing 15-17 minute service together during the day all week, and then split at Tigard. The 78 travels to Lake Oswego via Hunziker, Tigard Triangle, PCC and Mountain Park. The 76 takes Hall southbound past Tigard City Hall to Durham, cutting over to Tualatin P&R, then serving Tualatin WES Station, Mohawk P&R, and Meridian Park Hospital. Service is hit and miss between Tigard and Tualatin, especially on weekends, as frequency goes from decent to suddenly very bad, and then even more quickly just ends, leaving Tualatin with a lack of consistent coverage that can be relied upon. (Note that there will improvements to Sunday schedules to add more early-mid morning and not-really-late night trips, as they have been heretofore nonexistent.)

The 45 drops in from Washington Square to serve 121st and Walnut before reaching Tigard TC. Also, Line 64 runs express to Tigard from Marquam Hill, stopping only at Tigard P&R and Tigard TC. Tualatin gets the 96 from Portland which runs decent peak hour service and a few quasi-midday trips; also the rush-hour 38 comes in to Tualatin from Portland via Kruse Way and 72nd. Lines 36 and 37 bridge the gap between Lake Oswego and Tualatin, with the 36 serving South Shore Blvd and Rivergrove (and Portland during rush hour), and the 37 providing absolutely terrible service on Country Club and Boones Ferry. To sum it up, there is somewhat decent direction to cover the usual commuter trips to and from Portland. But if anyone would want to actually travel within the Southwest suburbs, quite frankly, you are out of luck.

TriMet's Plan and My Plan
As opposed to Hillsboro, TriMet's concept plan for the Southwest section of the Metro area is solid, except for some gaps. My plan was created by taking my logical ideas and applying them to their overall picture. So what you will see in the next few paragraphs is a design that is mostly TriMet's idea but augmented just enough to make it a little more smooth and a lot more effective. You can read TriMet's Southwest Service Enhancement Plan Final Report (with map) here. Unlike my last few posts, I won't have a map for every single line, so please refer to the area map or use your imagination if you need help perceiving them in your mind. (Okay, I'm sure you can use Google Maps too. I'll make it easy for you.)
The Transit Rider PDX version of the Southwest concept map
12-Barbur Blvd & 64-Marquam Hill/Tigard
      According to my plan, there would be few changes to either of these lines, if any. Line 12 works pretty well as is, save for any better timed transfers with other lines like the "93". Actually, my only plan with the 12 in Southwest is to have some rush hour trips come into Tigard and become Line "93" buses, helping riders who are traveling from somewhere along Hwy 99W get down the road easier during commuter hours. I don't have any suggested changes for Line 64. (My one major proposal for Line 12 is to have it serve Portland International Airport on the other end by laying over at Parkrose, turning up I-205 to Airport Way, looping through the Airport, and returning to Parkrose where it would layover again. This would provide an alternative to the Red Line if it breaks.)

94-Pacific Hwy/Sherwood
      Notice how I put the 93 in scare quotes? That's because I believe that the 93 and 94 should be one route. I think that all trips should serve Tigard TC, and every other trip would run express to downtown. Wouldn't this make so much more sense? Now, TriMet wants to avoid sending all the 94 buses during rush hour through the Tigard TC. And I say you don't need to. There is a perfectly good sidewalk on the other side of the abnormally wide Commercial Street that could be used as a 94 bus stop. Buses to Sherwood could turn left from Main onto Scoffins, right Ash, right Commercial through the stop across the street from the main bus bays, and left Main. Buses to Tigard would do the exact same thing, just starting from Main and turning right onto Scoffins (all buses would run clockwise). The only sticky situation here is that the turn from Main onto Scoffins is a bit tight for a 40-foot bus. However, a little planning and cooperation with the City of Tigard and you could create an easy turn that would help all the buses flow smoothly through Old Town Tigard while allowing riders to make all their transfers easily and efficiently.

45-Garden Home
      Fooled ya! TriMet wants to take the 45 bus from Portland to Beaverton TC via Garden Home, 92nd, Scholls Ferry, Denny, and Hall. So this line would no longer go anywhere near Tigard. Obviously, some line(s) should make up this gap in service!

62-Murray Blvd
      Remember the question at the top of my post a few days ago with the long list in it? Murray Blvd
and Walnut St now make a thoroughfare from Cedar Mill to Tigard, and the 62 should be changed to reflect this. It would run straight from Cornell Rd all the way to Pacific Hwy, only detouring to serve the Millikan Way MAX station. This would take the service from the 45 on Walnut between Tiedeman/Fonner and Hwy 99W, and will add service between Scholls Ferry and Tiedeman. TriMet has a plan to keep the 62 going to Washington Square alongside the 56 on Scholls Ferry, while bringing the 37 (I know, random, right?) over to serve Walnut to Progress Ridge. I think this is inconsistent with current road design logic. It is rooted in the dependency of people going from Murray directly to Scholls Ferry, which has always been nice but doesn't give flexibility to change for the better. In a later post, I will explain how I have designed the transfer between the 56 and 62 to make it easier on people who use this path. But the 62 needs to go down Walnut, plain and simple. This is what we call "progress."

78-Beaverton/Lake Oswego & 76-Beaverton/Tualatin
      TriMet has been planning for years to make Line 76 a Frequent Service line, and it needs it. Service on these two lines between Beaverton and Tigard is already at 15-17 minutes during the day all week, but it's the other times that are hit and (usually) miss, besides the lack of service to Tualatin. By turning the 76 to Frequent Service, it gives flexibility of moving the 78 so that it is not providing redundant service and can serve new roads. TriMet has proposed to take the 78 out of Tigard TC onto Hall Blvd northbound and have it serve Hall all the way to Washington Square, then have it turn up Scholls Ferry to Allen and jump over to Lombard, taking that road along with the 88 to Beaverton TC. I like this idea, as Allen has little service to speak of east of Lombard. This will also better serve the north Tigard communities and Metzger.

      In June, TriMet is launching Line 97 between Sherwood and Tualatin, which is a welcome sight. This line should serve the south Sherwood area, something that has never been served before. In the future, TriMet hopes to extend the service further north by having it serve 72nd Ave north of Tualatin. It would run straight up 72nd all the way to Hwy 99W, replacing the Line 38 service there. It would serve the Tigard Park & Ride, then run back down Hwy 99W into Tigard TC. This is a reasonable inter-community connection that would help improve one of the major north/south routes in Tigard,

38-Boones Ferry Rd
      If the 97 replaces the 38 service, then where will the 38 go? TriMet wants to take the 38 straight down Boones Ferry past Mountain Park, with the Line 44 extension serving that area. The 38 would travel down Kruse Way like it does now, then turn on Bangy Rd to Bonita, eventually ending up at Tigard TC. TriMet proposes that it take Hall to McDonald, then cut over to Pacific Hwy, but I think it makes more sense for the Gaarde bus to cover both sides of Pacific Hwy. So I take the 38 straight up Hall into Tigard TC. This route optimization would allow for full weekday service on the 38, as well as putting full week service on 72nd someday via Line 97.

      TriMet wants to make another long north/south connector route out of Line 67. It would run down 158th to Merlo and continue to 170th, where it would run as far as Bany/Hart, following Line 88 to 155th. (Line 88 would be re-routed to Davis St instead of Hart Rd.) Line 67 would take 155th to Beard/Brockman and then follow the 92 route to 125th. At Scholls Ferry it would jump over to 121st and take the 45 route from there to Walnut. It would continue to Gaarde and hit Hwy 99W at the Gaarde/McDonald intersection. TriMet proposes that the 67 would turn up Pacific Hwy to Tigard TC, with the 38 covering McDonald. I say that the 67 should cover the whole stretch of Gaarde/McDonald from 121st to Hall, then take Hall to Tigard TC. It only makes sense; why make people transfer if they just want to cross the street? (It would be the whole 48/89 Cornell problem all over again.) The only place where the rest of TriMet's plan conflicts with mine is on 170th, where my Line 49 originally took 170th from Baseline to Farmington. From my perspective, TriMet's plan in this case takes precedent and therefore the 49 will have to find another road down which to travel, such as 160th.

36-South Shore
      Within the year, TriMet will be changing the routing for Line 36 so that it doesn't serve Pilkington, Childs, 65th and McEwan anymore. This is unfortunate for the city of Rivergrove, but since nobody's riding it, and they have had the opportunity, it is only logical to move the bus to stay on Jean Rd. This will allow the bus to serve the Boones Ferry shopping area more efficiently, and it will allow TriMet to extend Line 36 past Tualatin Park & Ride down Durham Rd to King City. (And it would still be a shorter walk to the bus than a lot of communities in Portland have.) This creates a nice east/west connection that will encourage ridership across the whole line. My only suggestion is to lob off the Portland spur at Lake Oswego, but maintain service as 35 buses that become 36 at Lake Oswego.

37-Lake Grove
      Line 37 is currently the laughingstock of the system, running on average every 89 minutes, with the shortest westbound headway being 72 minutes and the last westbound trip leaving Lake Oswego at 4:28pm! Who wants to ride this line? They cut it back with the service cuts in a way that said, "We want to discontinue this line, but the people won't let us." TriMet plans to run Line 44 between Kerr Pkwy and Tualatin P&R, which allows them to move the 37 to Kruse Way to match the 38 routing. I say eliminate the whole thing. My plan has the 38 doing exactly what TriMet's 37 is doing in Tigard, and they also have the 37 continuing to Progress Ridge via Walnut (I have no idea why the 37 of all lines should ever do this). Put the 37 service into Line 36 and make transfers between the 78 and the 44 easy at Country Club and Boones Ferry. You would end up with better service with that setup than the 37 could ever do on its own.

      The 96 should run all week. Portland to Tualatin, maybe have it do the Mohawk P&R shortline on weekends. But for Pete's sake, if there ever was demand for service that currently doesn't exist, this is it.

93-Basalt Creek/124th
      Not shown on my map is the new Line 93 (as the current 93 service is enveloped by Line 94). There apparently is going to be a new community in southern Tualatin called Basalt Creek, and TriMet wants to stick a future bus line down to it via Hwy 99W and 124th Ave. This would be convenient for those future people and would also provide both a connection to jobs in the western Tualatin business area and another line of service between King City and Tigard. This is why I propose moving Line 67 all the way to Hall Blvd, because, according to my plan, this would leave three buses on Pacific Hwy leaving central Tigard and three buses on Hall Blvd. Well-balanced.

40-Bull Mountain
      Call it bad marketing strategy to but my most important additions at the end (I arranged this post in a logical order), but there is something significant here in Bull Mountain. There are about 10,000 people living in the unincorporated community of Bull Mountain, and this doesn't account for the Tigard portion along Bull Mountain road. This is a wealthier portion of the city and probably couldn't support a full-week bus to start. But given time and the right types of encouragement, a bus down Bull Mountain Rd would make for a welcome addition to the system. Remember, the more people earn, the more taxes they are paying to TriMet. While partiality toward the more fortunate shouldn't be encouraged when planning transit, we should also never forget them. TriMet does plan some sort of commuter shuttle service for the Bull Mountain area (like the old Cedar Mill Shuttle). However, in such an important part of the Southwest, they deserve a line that covers the whole area. My plan for Line 40 takes it from Tigard TC to Progress Ridge via Hwy 99W, Bull Mountain Rd, Roy Rogers, and Scholls Ferry, which would also serve Tigard's River Terrace community and Beaverton's South Cooper Mountain community, both under construction.

41-Beef Bend
      Definitely a second priority to Bull Mountain, Line 41 would cover the rest of the area currently left off the TriMet map. It should start in King City at Pacific Hwy & Durham southbound, run through the town center of King City toward Beef Bend Rd, then travel down Beef Bend to Elsner Rd. The bus would travel on Elsner to Roy Rogers due to the TriMet district boundary not covering the new portion of Roy Rogers between Elsner (old Beef Bend) and Bull Mountain Rd. Then it would serve the northwest Sherwood community before traveling through Langer Dr and Old Town Sherwood and then returning back to King City via the way it came. This bus could be rush hour only to start and then expanded as ridership allows. If you take a look at my map, you can see that the addition of these two lines (with only 2-4 vehicles to cover both lines) would cover all the area of the Southwest that TriMet currently is missing with real fixed route bus service.

The best way to encourage ridership is to offer it. Sometimes, as a transit agency, you have to offer service to an area even if it doesn't result in the highest ridership in the city, solely because it is fare to all the people living and paying taxes within your district boundaries. By introducing this service into the Westside and Southwest areas, you have very quickly covered 98% of the major holes in the district area, and paved the way for communities of the future to thrive and flourish.