My View: Fewer MAX stops won't improve transit
In an effort to save perhaps two minutes of travel time through downtown Portland, TriMet staff is proposing to close four MAX stops: Skidmore Fountain, Pioneer Place at Southwest Fourth and Fifth avenues and King's Hills.
This is misguided and unjustified. Downtown isn't just a "transit freeway" from the east to westside, and cutting stations will not result in noticeable time savings for the average commuter. Each station cut may save 30 seconds, but closures impact businesses, students, employees, the elderly and people who are disabled.
A more measured approach is needed. Eliminating the Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Fifth Avenue stops makes sense since there is no opposition. TriMet should initially see how much time savings are gained with the elimination of these stations before attempting to shutter other MAX stops.
Educating commuters on how to efficiently board also could be a time savings benefit. And because red lights can cause further delays, educating MAX drivers on how to avoid "signal timeouts" so they're not stuck at red lights would be a simple and effective time saver.
It's clear: Kings Hill and the Skidmore Fountain MAX stops need to stay open. These station closures impact the Portland Saturday Market (their Skidmore stop is the second busiest MAX stop on weekends), the University of Oregon, the Salvation Army, AirbnB, Lincoln High School, Goose Hollow and Old Town residents, as well as myriad businesses and community organizations throughout downtown.
As an alternative, TriMet should consider expanding westside express bus service, which could easily improve east-west commuter time. Presently, it can take up to 90 minutes to ride from Mount Tabor to the Nike and Intel campuses. Cutting the proposed MAX stops may reduce that ride to 88 minutes, not an appreciable difference. Express buses, however, can move people faster than cutting a few MAX stops ever could and can be implemented quickly.
Other West Coast cities provide express buses to large corporations, and TriMet already successfully employs express bus routes (e.g. the No. 94 to Tigard). Adding, not cutting, services is the better solution.
Make no mistake: after meeting with TriMet, we know firsthand they are dead set on closing all four downtown MAX stops, with little transparency about what the long-term plan is to speed up MAX (and little data to back it up).
Simply put, less MAX access does not make for improved mass transit or a better downtown.
Howie Bierbaum, acting executive director, Portland Saturday Market.
Thomas Lauderdale, downtown resident and Pink Martini bandleader.