Come Sunday, the bus stops here
Bus changes - TriMet's two-year transit mall stop swap starts this weekend. Riders, check your schedules
Thursday, January 11, 2007
While most of Portland sleeps, a No. 33 (McLoughlin) bus will pull in at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Salmon Street at 5:15 a.m. Sunday, launching a traffic shift that will transform how downtown Portland works for the next two years.
If the relocation of buses off the transit mall is news to anyone, it's not for lack of trying.
TriMet has spent $70,000 to alert bus riders, businesses and the rest of the city about the changes. The agency has distributed information on buses, at shelters, in a special newspaper advertising section, at news conferences -- it has even given away refrigerator magnets featuring the project's Web site, www.portlandmall.org
But there's bound to be confusion, if not outright chaos, when the buses finally move from Fifth and Sixth avenues to make way for light-rail construction. Most routes will be relocated to Third and Fourth avenues. A few westside routes will move to Southwest Jefferson and Columbia streets. And the No. 14 (Hawthorne) bus will move to Southwest Second Avenue.
TriMet is taking advantage of the calendar to ease the change. Sunday is the system's slowest day of the week, and Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Buses will run on a holiday schedule Monday when ridership is expected to be about 75 percent of a normal weekday. That gives TriMet two days to practice before handling a full-blown commute Tuesday.
To help navigate all this, we offer some answers to common questions:
Why are they doing this?
The buses are being relocated so light-rail tracks can be installed on Fifth and Sixth avenues from Union Station to Portland State University. The $557 million project will also give the mall a face-lift and expand MAX to Clackamas Town Center along Interstate 205.
But why are they really doing this?
Downtown retailers have long sought to bring cars back and to spruce up the deteriorating, uninviting transit mall. Combining these business community wishes with light-rail expansion produced a politically viable project.
How long will it take?
Buses are expected to return to the mall in spring 2009, and the new MAX green line is scheduled to open in September 2009.
How can I find out where my bus stop will be?
The TriMet Web site, www.trimet.org
, has new schedules for all bus lines, including the new downtown stops. Riders can also use Trip Planner by entering a date on or after Jan. 14. Information is also available by telephone, 503-238-RIDE.
What happens on the mall during construction?
All businesses and sidewalks will remain open. The project will be built in three- to four-block segments at three locations on the mall, each taking about eight weeks. The rest of the mall will be open to traffic and parking.
Will parking be removed on Third and Fourth?
Yes, some parking has been removed to make space available for bus stops. But officials say adding 200 parking spaces on the mall will compensate for lost spaces.
Will the downtown changes affect the rest of the schedules?
Yes. Every route that goes through downtown will see minor schedule changes to allow for longer travel times through downtown.
How much longer?
TriMet says tests showed the changes will add no more than a minute or two to most schedules. Although traffic will slow the buses, other factors will speed up travel times. Buses making the loop from the east side will travel a shorter distance, and buses will stop every third or fourth block instead of every other block as they do now.
Is it really that simple?
No. Tri-Met worries about unpredictability. Traffic flow on the bus mall is highly predictable, but mingling buses with general vehicle traffic on Third and Fourth introduces the potential for accidents, stalls and other traffic jam headaches that can play havoc with the schedules.
What about Southwest Naito Parkway?
This major north-south street will reopen by this weekend. Traffic models show that the traffic moving back to Naito will eventually equal the bus traffic added to Third and Fourth.
What about C-Tran?
The C-Tran buses will also relocate to Third and Fourth avenues. Visit www.c-tran.com
for more information. TriMet says C-Tran will not move back to the mall when it reopens.
Are there bus routes that don't change?
Yes, crosstown routes such as the No. 72 (Killingsworth/82nd Ave.) that don't go downtown will remain the same. There will also be no changes to buses such as the No. 15 (Belmont) that cross the mall but don't travel on it.
James Mayer: 503-294-4109; firstname.lastname@example.org