Tri-Met shares the blame

I've been reading a lot about the precipitous decline of downtown Portland, and last night I caught a good comment on a Facebook post about it by a friend of mine. Somebody wrote that the problems down there have been exacerbated by the way the transit mall has changed over the years.

When I think back to how the system worked 40 years ago, it was a much friendlier setup. There were what seemed like 100 bus lines running through the transit mall. The buses stopped every other block. And there was a large "fareless square," in which you could ride any bus for free.

This meant that if, for example, you were down at Sixth and Jefferson and you needed to get to Old Town, you could jump on just about any bus heading in that direction. There was litle standing around waiting. Heck, you could even board through the back door if you wanted. And if you needed to leave downtown, once you got to the transit mall your ride was no more than a block or two away.

Lots of buses meant lots of bus drivers, who seemed at the time like they were leeping a watchful eye on things. They were in regular conversation with supervisors who roamed the mall, often on foot.

Then Tri-Met went train crazy, and all of that went to hell. They built the light rail here and there, even running it through the mall, and the buses started to be less frequent. Some bus lines were eliminated entirely. They ended the "fareless square" for everything but the trains. Then they decided that the buses weren't whipping through the mall fast enough, and so they changed things so that the bus stops for the various lines, now jostling for position with the light rail, are five or six blocks apart.

Light rail drivers are in locked booths, and they never interact with passengers. If there are supervisors around, they are fewer and further between. And bus drivers who stop only three times through the mall see and say less than those who stopped every other block.

The net results have been poorer service and a far smaller contribution to any feeling of security downtown.

Portland transit 40 years ago was actually quite good. Now it seems like it's merely decent, or worse. Did that kill downtown? No, but it sure didn't help.


  1. I concur.

    Not only that, it's just as bad out in the 'hoods. TriMet has worked hard to make it far more difficult for the small, halt, lame, and otherwise challenged residents to make it to a bus stop, which are now twice as far apart. Reputedly, this is to move the buses along faster. Yeah, that's just what we need, more buses moving faster down constricted thoroughfares in the 'hood. It seems that squeezing out autos is the plan and screw the riders, any way.

    I will also note that 'Go By Streetcar' was just an empty pointless phrase to Metro, who had to build a WHITE ELEPHANT Convention Center Hotel because the streetcars and light rail were just not a viable means of transporting conventioneers from the excess of underutilized hotel rooms downtown to just across the river. Conventioneers evidently thought a two-minute ride on TriMet was a deal-breaker. Pay no attention to the transit authority behind the screen.

  2. It's all a lovely success story according to the delusional Oregonian Editorial Board. Model for the nation kinda stuff.

    TriMet and the Editorial Board get to make any claim they want to concoct.

    Their praise for the Mall makeover is a real keeper.
    Has anyone gone down there to check on the business and jobs boom?
    Has the mall "triggered more than a billion dollars of investment in downtown Portland" as projected?

    The editorial board wrote, "It's important to undertake an economic analysis at some point to establish more definitively the effect of the project."

    What a wild idea! When will that happen? It's called never.
    They will never actually demand that analysis. What for? They don't need it. They've already decided for us what a success it is.
    Neil McFarlane said,
    "There's no question that the renovation has been invigorating. "We've changed the mall into a nice place to be," says Neil McFarlane, who managed the project for TriMet. "It's a nice place to walk, a nice place to be a transit customer, a nice place to have a business."

    EB, "That keeps Portland moving forward -- and that is the whole idea".

    How about validation?

  3. Agenda "whatever year it is now" wants you to stay confined to your little 'hood and not venture out. So take away your car, make downtown undesirable, work from home, visit your peeps online, and ride your bike to the weed store. And if you don't like it, shut the F up.


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