Wednesday, March 4, 2009


> Seriously, TriMet should consider pushing for more commuter rail but
> ONLY if they do it on the cheap as you've proposed.

I've seen a lot of pictures of streetcar/interurban systems historically (we're
talking 1900-1950 era). Yes, there would have to be certain changes (mostly
with regards to ADA) but the fact is:

We do not need extensive, full length, wide concrete platforms with shelters,
landscaping, lighting, signage, Transit Tracker signs, huge parking lots.

I've been to Europe and they have some "commuter lines" that have very
minimalistic stops. Sometimes they are just old signal shacks that are no
longer used, but there is an adequate space to board the train. There might be
a nearby bus stop or taxi parking space - that's it.

Meanwhile, there are cities and in Europe that have VERY extensive bus stop
programs. Heck - just compare a Portland transit center with one in Eugene,
Vancouver (Washington), Seattle, Los Angeles. Even Salem's Courthouse Square is
impressive by TriMet standards. Tacoma's Tacoma Dome Station is pretty neat
with intermodal connections between local and regional bus, Streetcar (they call
it Light Rail), Sounder (commuter rail) and even Greyhound stops there. (The
only complaint I have is that Amtrak is several blocks would be very
easy for Amtrak to move so that it's at least across the street.)

WES was severely overbuilt. The only reason that three of the five parking lots
was built was because of TriMet's own lack of connections with bus service.
(Wilsonville probably would need a park-and-ride no matter what, but at least
SMART is trying to encourage bus ridership.) Tualatin could very well support a
local bus network akin to SMART - using minibuses to connect anywhere in
Tualatin to the downtown transit center in less than 10 minutes. Tigard would
be a little more difficult but Tigard could certainly use more local bus
service. Hall/Nimbus is just a horrible design for a rail station. (It's worse
than Laguna Nigel, if anyone's seen my YouTube video!)

> any other ideas on good routes Erik? That could actually benefit from
> such service?

Rail? Or Bus? I have a lot of ideas for good rail service. I think that
Sherwood-Milwaukie could make sense and could be done cheaply (if TriMet was
told to butt out). I think that a regional commuter rail service could be built
with service as far north as Kelso/Longview, south to Salem, northwest to St.
Helens and possibly Rainier, northeast to Battle Ground. I think that for the
sake of funding that it will have to be two separate systems (one for Washington
and one for Oregon) but this is not a problem as most commuter rail systems
literally run their systems as individual lines (where a ticket or even a pass
is only good between two points, and transferring between lines requires
multiple tickets - in fact in Chicago the individual railroads operate their own
ticket systems, so a Union Pacific ticket (sold by Union Pacific) is not good on
a BNSF line.) And in many areas (especially in the Northeast) there are
multiple commuter rail agencies that do connect together, sometimes with slight

Bus: I have a zillion ideas. New routes? I'm not sure about new routes right
now. I think TriMet needs to really take a look at its entire network and
restructure it.

The "Frequent Service"/"Local"/"Commuter" is a good blueprint but TriMet never
followed through with it beyond Frequent Service, and even that has been all but
thrown out the window. Los Angeles Metro does the same thing with groups of
routes - Local, Owl, Limited Stop, Rapid, Express, and Orange Line/Transitway
(BRT). (LACMTA goes a step further by distinguishing each service, including
different buses with different paint schemes/colors.) In addition there are
local bus services operated by other entities, including the City of Los Angeles
DASH and LADOT bus lines.

TriMet already has groupings of buses - the mainline routes, the cross-towns,
the locals...but I think TriMet really needs to examine, adjust, and promote
this system. TriMet needs to look at local routes that have low ridership and
instead of cutting them, invest in them. Consider new, smaller buses.
Cherriots, C-Tran, Metro, Pierce Transit, and other agencies have had a lot of
success in doing this. (TriMet, admittedly, did try with "The Local", but I
after a few years TriMet simply lost interest and most of these routes were
cancelled. Interestingly, the program started about two years before Fred
Hansen took charge of TriMet, and ended on his watch.)

TriMet needs to look at what its plans are for commuter/express service. Does
TriMet say that the routes are too expensive and cancel them? Or, follow the
lead of many agencies (Sound Transit, as a good example) and invest in them with
new long distance buses? I think that Forest Grove deserves a good express bus;
so does Troutdale and Gresham, and even West Linn/Lake Oswego might be deserving
of its own express bus. What about working with Sandy, Molalla, Canby,
Wilsonville, Banks/North Plains, and Columbia County to create a regional
express bus agency where these areas can form a regional provider that pays just
for the express bus service, but TriMet operates it on behalf of the totality?