My view: PBOT's new bus route plan won't help SW Portlanders
Stakeholders in the Hillsdale Community are very concerned PBOT is plowing ahead with the Rose Lane Project at a time when the problem they are thinking about solving does not exist. Under present traffic conditions, the Rose Lane Project on Capitol Highway will not speed up buses one bit. The proposed pilot project for Capitol Highway would make one of the two lanes in each direction between Barbur Boulevard and Bertha bus only. Taking that lane of vehicle traffic away may fractionally reduce Tri Met times under pre-pandemic conditions times but would send hundreds of drivers into our no-sidewalk narrow street neighborhoods or cause them to drive many extra miles.
The Rose Lane projects elsewhere in the city have been installed in locations where the alternative parallel routes for impatient drivers go along streets with sidewalks and areas with well developed bicycle networks. Due to Southwest Portland's unique topography, varied terrain and limited through street that is not the case in Hillsdale.
PBOT's website for the Capitol Highway Rose Lanes says, "Staff are seeking public input on streets that should be monitored" and asks, "Where should we focus limited monitoring and mitigation resources?" What they should be asking is "Is this a reasonable project for Hillsdale's substandard street network and the businesses along Capitol Highway that depend on the drive through traffic?"
Our main concerns are on the westbound route. Specifically, the proposal provides just one lane of Capitol Highway for cars and trucks headed westbound. What happens when Terwilliger southbound backs up because there's only one lane to turn right onto? Drivers looking to avoid congestion by driving on Southwest Westwood and Southwest Cheltenham wouldn't likely observe the speed limit along those two narrow twisting no-sidewalk streets. Many drivers will be directed by the GPS in their car looking for the fastest way to get to their destination. PBOT does not control those algorithms.
Another concern: Traffic from Barbur Boulevard southbound trying to turn onto Capitol Highway would conceivably back up at rush hour as the flow of vehicle traffic is cut in half with just one lane for cars instead of the current two. Parkhill Drive off of Barbur will become a much used alternative route in spite of its 3 blind curves and narrow non sidewalk streets. Wouldn't extra miles driven to avoid congestion negate the reduction of exhaust emissions, one of the major goals of Rose Lanes?
As for getting people out of their cars, there's not a lot of reliable data indicating how fractionally (1 minute) reducing the time of the Tri Met commute through Hillsdale would make enough of a difference to get car commuters to buy a Hop Fastpass and start riding the 54 Line.
PBOT's proposal to implement this reduction in vehicle lanes with a promise to mitigate the affected streets is another promise that many doubt will be fulfilled. As we all know, PBOT moves at a glacial speed if at all in calming traffic on our streets. Have you seen a street with speed bumps that has an average speed under 25 miles per hour? And, we have been waiting 26 years for the planned sidewalks on just one side of the street along Capitol Highway from Burlingame Avenue to Terwilliger! So much for believing they will do anything to mitigate problems.
PBOT in deciding this is an important project has not taken into account the effect on the Hillsdale Business Community which depends to a great deal on the traffic that passes through Hillsdale on Capitol Highway. Do they care? The flyer they recently distributed is misleading in that they show three lanes of traffic coming from the east to Sunset Boulevard. The third land is a left turn lane, but their brochure does not show it that way. The business owners fear the red painted bus lanes will cause people to avoid turning into the parking lot of the Hillsdale Shopping Center. The business community question's whether these changes will make Capitol Hwy a safer street.
The Hillsdale Neighborhood Association and the Hillsdale Business and Professional Association have prepared a very detailed set of questions that we feel is important that PBOT answer before deciding if the Capitol Highway Rose Lane Project should proceed. The questions and a map of the streets that we expect to be impacted by the closure have the vehicle lanes westbound on Capitol Highway can be seen at SWTrails.org/rosebus.
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