OPINION: Reconsider terminating TriMet bus line 46
As reported in Oregon public library statistics, the Brookwood and Shute branches of the Hillsboro Public Library accommodated 70,000, 76,000 and 92,000 borrowers for the years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively. These numbers are among the highest in the state and coincide with the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Sadly, TriMet is considering eliminating line 46 that serves the Brookwood library due to low ridership.
To its credit, TriMet has undertaken an equity analysis to evaluate the prospect of increasing ridership for minority and low income populations.
Whereas it may be attractive to shift resources from low ridership lines that serve high-income communities, there are many who live in lower socioeconomic communities who travel through or to those higher socioeconomic communities. They do so to work, seek work, shop, or access a library for personal and professional reasons. The latter two are likely since the door count at the Brookwood branch between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, was almost 312,000. This number may, in fact, be an underestimate as hours were reduced during the pandemic and the unusual wildfire season.
I question whether TriMet's approach is wise and offer the following suggestions.
TriMet should conduct surveys and focus groups in low income population centers to identify reasons and barriers for using its transit services. Relying on a survey of a general audience lacks specificity. Partnering with trusted businesses and faith communities is key to gathering willing participants. Reducing or eliminating fares in low-income service populations would likely promote ridership increases. A sensitivity analysis might delineate the appropriate fare threshold.
The agency could also partner with private sector businesses within the Brookwood Library catchment area to co-sponsor financially a no-fare or low-fare fee that provides access to retail sites off Northeast Imbrie Drive, Orenco Station Parkway and Northeast 25th Avenue, as well as the Brookwood Library. Such a route would be shorter than the 46 currently but still connect with lines 47 and 48 and MAX. A much smaller vehicle would cut fuel costs.
We look to TriMet, its current and prospective customers, and the business community to come together collaboratively to address this issue.
Keeping the Brookwood Library on a bus route is essential. A win for all parties.
David A. Nardone is a Hillsboro resident.
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