Last week, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Bus Riders Unite! led the final meeting of their East Portland Bus Stop Prioritization project. The result was a list of the three worst bus stops in the City –a short list that includes one busy and chronically bad stop at 82nd and Foster.
The two-year long project involved an extensive public process, described as “Survivor-style” by the seriously great portlandafoot.org blog. The end result was that a broad group of transit users identified the East Portland bus stops in most need of upgrades.
On that short list: the sliver of sidewalk on the north side of Foster where hundreds of riders get on or off every weekday.
BRU! activist Eavan Moore told me that the stop’s heavy usage easily justifies a shelter, but there isn’t space to accomodate one given the narrow sidewalk there.
“Widening that sidewalk, by extending it into the street and/or by extending it into the adjacent parking lot, is a critical first step to making other improvements,” she says. Eavan would also like to see a garbage can, a posted schedule and better lighting too, but everything hinges on finding a way to create more space in the substandard sidewalk.
Purchasing part of the Wells Fargo parking lot to expand the sidewalk and bus stop is possible, but acquiring privately-owned right-of-way can be expensive, and hasn’t been something that’s been discussed so far by PBOT’s Foster Streetscape committee.
That’s not surprising, given the meager resources the City has allocated to that 2+ mile project.
Similarly, there’s a lot of competition for space within the existing roadway — making expansion there problematic too. The current configuration includes four auto through-lanes plus a center turn lane. The City’s 2010 Bike Plan anticipates bike lanes being added to the mix, and the 2009 Streetcar Plan includes a future Streetcar line here as well. So far, the Lents Neighborhood Association has opposed any reduction in auto lanes in the area.
It’s possible that the ongoing Foster Streetscape project could take these improvements on, but time is running short. None of the eight different possible street profiles considered by PBOT and the Streetscape committee for this area have included plans for expansion of these sidewalks beyond the current 5-foot width. (See http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/425424 at pp.9-11)
Other options could include requesting funds for improvements from Tri-Met or the PDC, but either of those paths could take years to see results on the ground.
But the activists working on the East Portland Bus Stop Prioritization Project expect to be involved for the long haul.
OPAL Executive Director Jonathan Oster told me that the project is intended as a first step, enabling “the people who actually ride the buses in East Portland to identify, assess and prioritize the most important bus stops that warrant improvements in terms of amenities and infrastructure.” He says that the project screened more than 150 bus stops to identify 20 for further assessment. Of those, riders from the community chose the top 3 in need of immediate help.
The other two stops on the “3 Worst” list are both on SE Powell Boulevard: One is at 122nd and the other is at 127th. Both of those locations have similar issues to Foster and 82nd: inadequate space, poor lighting and amenities and terrible access for people with disabilities.
People looking to get involved in the movement for better bus stops or other aspects of advocacy for transit riders should get in touch with Bus Riders Unite! here.