By Midge Pierce
Citizens have until Sept. 9 to weigh in on Metro’s Powell-Division Transit and Development Project that proposes to run articulated rapid transit buses (BRT) along SE Division Street from downtown to Gresham.
Officials from the project partnership shopping the revised alignment to the Richmond and Hosford-Abernethy, the neighborhoods most impacted by the new alignment, claimed that running BRT along Division will result in more efficiency than the initial, generally preferred option along Powell to 82nd.
The Powell route hit roadblocks when it was determined that congestion, particularly at a railway underpass, would cause time-consuming backups and delays.
As a result, Powell could not meet the speed and efficiency requirements needed to secure federal funds for the project. A Powell routing would have required extensive, expensive construction and demolitions in the Jade District.
New technology makes today’s articulated buses highly maneuverable according to officials countering charges that they were a disaster when they were introduced, and discontinued, here decades ago.
The new buses are longer but not wider than current vehicles and could hold up to 60% more passengers with fewer passed up by full buses. Portland is the only major city that does not have articulated buses, said a spokesman.
The Division route would feature fewer stops but trips would be 15-20% quicker than the existing Line 4. Shorter, less frequent stops would mean that drivers spend less time waiting behind buses as they stop for passengers.
Officials have promised to work closely with communities to ensure that stations and amenities are compatible with Division’s recent streetscape improvements.
The reduction in the number of stops made by Division’s current Line 4 was the most consistent concern expressed at community meetings. Fewer stops would mean longer walks for the disabled and elderly, posing particular hardships in the rain.
“The current Line 4 is not broken,” said a Richmond resident. “So why fix it?”
“Keep 4 on Division and run the BRT on Hawthorne,” said another. “The boulevard is wider and this would solve a lot of problems.”
Others expressed concern about the west end configuration over the rail tracks and the Hawthorne Bridge.
“Get your alignment figured out or it will fail,” warned Hosford Abernethy board member Linda Nettekoven.
Many residents hope funding can be found to add dedicated transit lanes or elevated light rail along Powell Blvd.
A project spokesman said the partnership between Portland, Gresham, Multnomah County, TriMet, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation will likely revisit transit needs along Powell once the BRT project is underway.
The partnership has a good track record of handling growth and equity issues, he said, explaining that federal funds allocated to Division would not negate the availability of federal funds for Powell.
“Success on Division BRT could actually mean more funds in the future. We think the government will look at us as a good market to invest in.”
At a Southeast Uplift Land and Transportation meet, board member Michael Molinaro urged caution before making a commitment to BRT on Division. “Do a pretend dry-run with the bus (prototype) to see if it works.”
Another commented on the push for federal funding. “Sometimes you have to say no to the money if it doesn’t make sense.”
Make sure your voice is heard and take the survey before September 9. The survey can be found at oregonmetro.gov/public-projects/powell-division-transit-and-development-project