Hillsdale: Transit project hurting businesses
Businesses in the Hillsdale Shopping Center in Southwest Portland are complaining that new bus-only lanes in the area are hurting sales.
Lanes on sections of Southwest Capitol Highway were repainted in mid-September. The new striping is intended to prioritize TriMet buses and to reduce their travel times. But business owners say the redesign is confusing, squeezes motor vehicles into single lanes that back up traffic, and is prompting some shoppers to avoid the area and their stores.
"The month after the lanes went in, my sales dropped 22% compared to the same month last year," Julina Abbott, owner of Gurton's Plant Shop at 6360 S.W. Capitol Highway, told the Portland Tribune.
According to Abbott, business is especially down during the afternoon rush hour, when the parking lot outside her store that used to be busy is now largely empty.
"We're a mom-and-pop store with no big corporation to support us," said Abbott, whose house plant and gift shop has been in the shopping center on the south side of the highway for five years.
"This area of Hillsdale and Multnomah Village is notorious for being one of the more confusing areas of the entire city," said Tina Donnaloia, owner of the Hoot-n-Annie Resale Boutique at 6308 S.W. Capitol Highway. "What the Rose Lane Project has done is give one more, unnecessary and unhelpful, reason for people to be deterred from coming here."
Tracy Barnes, the manager of Paloma Clothing at 6316 S.W. Capitol Highway, agrees. "I'm getting stuck in traffic for 20 minutes coming to work. I've thought of cutting through the neighborhood, which I imagine many people are doing. And business during the afternoon commute is down because it is so hard to get in and out of the parking lot," said Barnes, whose business has been in the shopping center for 47 years.
The restriping runs along sections of the highway from Southwest Barbur Boulevard to the west, through Hillsdale past the shopping center, and ends near the intersection with the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. It is part of the Rose Lane Project, a joint undertaking by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and TriMet, the regional transit agency.
First approved by the Portland City Council in February 2020, the project includes dedicating portions of lanes on select multi-lane streets buses and Portland Streetcars. One goal is to prevent the buses and streetcars from being caught in traffic, especially during morning and afternoon commutes.
According to PBOT's project website, "The Rose Lane vision is a network of transit lines where short-term and long-term fixes improve transit service where it's most delayed. Over time, as transit moves faster and more reliably on these lines, service will increase, helping move more people."
The residents and business owners agree improving transit service is a worthy goal. But they say the Rose Lane project in Hillsdale needs to be reconsidered.
"Such lanes may work well in other parts of Portland, but the Hillsdale project is having serious negative consequences," said Chris Braidwood-Reid, a member of the board of directors of the Hillsdale Business & Professional Association.
She said representatives of the association "have been working hard since March 2022 to convey our significant concerns to the Portland Bureau of Transportation regarding the Rose Lane Project." Braidwood-Reid is the property manager at the Wardin Investment Co., which owns the majority of the commercial property on the south side of the highway.
Among other things, neighborhood representatives testified about their concerns before the City Council on May 4. When they finished, Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty read a prepared statement that said, "This is a form of climate action and equity that acts with appropriate urgency while being responsive to community needs. …This is a project that furthers councils' goals around climate, mitigation and equity."
The $200,000 project was completed in mid-September. In subsequent emails to Hillsdale residents and business representatives, PBOT officials defended the project, saying any early congestion will dissipate as motorists change their travel schedules and routes. Adjustments already have been made to improve traffic flow, they said. PBOT does not plan any other changes at this time.
PBOT's Nick Falbo responded to the business association in a Nov. 17 email, writing, "This project was always planned as a pilot effort and PBOT is committed to the monitoring and mitigation approach identified prior to project implementation. PBOT will conduct monitoring at the three month mark (January 2023) and six month mark (March/April 2023) to document and assess traffic changes. The results from the monitoring will be shared with the community online and via email and will influence decisions around changes and mitigations related to the project."
The HBPA disagreed the problems have been solved and emailed back on Nov. 21, saying in part, "PBOT continues to completely overlook and ignore the aspect of businesses losing revenue. We asked you before and are asking you yet again 'HOW MUCH LOSS DO BUSINESSES HAVE TO EXPERIENCE BEFORE PBOT WILL DO SOMETHING?'"
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