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TriMet pitches bus cuts for Brooklyn, Sellwood, Westmoreland

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Portland Bureau of Transportations April Bertelsen, and TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Community Affairs Representative Jennifer Koozer, listen as a neighbor comments on proposed cuts to bus service in Inner Southeast.By the time the formal meeting got underway on February 25th at Brooklyn’s Sacred Heart Villa, some 40 people had arrived to find out more about TriMet’s plan to reduce bus service once MAX light rail service begins. Similar meetings have been held lately elsewhere in Inner Southeast, including in Sellwood and Westmoreland.

Before the formal presentation began, maps showing current and proposed bus lines were laid out on tables; architectural drawings of new light rail stations lined the room.

“Tonight, we are talking about potential bus service changes, when the light rail service begins in 2015,” explained TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Community Affairs Representative Jennifer Koozer, herself a resident of Sellwood.

Asked to define “changes” affecting the area of the MAX “Orange Line”, Koozer replied, “We are looking at ways to increase [MAX] ridership. We want to have riders take advantage of the new light rail service.”

These changes are based on the assumption, Koozer told THE BEE, that buses 31, 32, 33, and 99, which currently serve S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard north of downtown Milwaukie, would duplicate light rail service and would no longer run north of Milwaukie.

“Another major starting assumption is that bus lines that currently use the Ross Island Bridge would start using the new Transit Bridge instead,” Koozer said. “This would take those buses out a lot of traffic congestion on the Ross Island Bridge.”

TriMet Service Planning Manager Kerry Ayres Palanuk facilitated this, their first Inner Southeast public meeting at which members of the community had heard about the proposed bus service changes.

As the formal meeting began, a ten-year Brooklyn resident (and formerly of Sellwood, she said) was surprised by the proposal. “This is the first time I heard that bus service would be discontinued along McLaughlin. Had I known this, I would not have been an early supporter of the project.”

Many participants appeared dismayed when it was revealed that no bus service would be restored along S.E. Tacoma Street in Sellwood. Bus 40 was discontinued across the bridge when the weight limit was imposed on the old bridge; riders had assumed that with a new and stronger Sellwood Bridge that service would be restored. Apparently it will not.

TriMet representatives asserted that most people are willing to walk up to a quarter-mile to a bus stop and a half-mile to a light rail stop. Many – although not most – walk much further, they said.

And, one of their assumptions shows, officials said, that “most people walk or bike to transit. Less than 5% of current TriMet riders access the system from Park & Ride lots”.

Another Brooklyn resident asked, “If no bus lines use the Ross Island Bridge, how will areas near the bridge be served?”

It will be almost a year before the final plan is set, Koozer said. “We will come with a full proposal in the spring, and ask for more feedback. And again, we will ask for more feedback during the summer, before we finalize the plans at the end of this year.”

If you missed the meeting, Koozer said they’ll be attending other neighborhood association meetings in the area. And, you can make online comments at: http://trimet.org/mailforms/contact_busplanning.html