|Volume 5, Issue 2||
TriMet in Cedar Mill—service cuts ahead?
by Virginia Bruce
Cedar Mill’s demographics and geography offer a challenge to public transportation. Neighborhoods are spread out and hilly, with many indirect and circuitous road connections. Residents in these neighborhoods are generally affluent and don’t move into the area expecting or requiring good public transit. Yet as we learn more about sustainable living, the necessity of providing and using public transportation is an ongoing theme.
In 1998, when the MAX Westside Light Rail system opened, TriMet began the Cedar Mill Shuttle as a unique, experimental method of getting people to the Sunset Transit Center. The Shuttle had a small but enthusiastic ridership. When TriMet formally took over the service from Sassy Cab in 2003, (see Cedar Mill News, October 2003), for financial reasons they had to cut back the hours, previously 7 am to 8 pm, to 6-9 am and 3-7 pm weekdays.
In December 2006, TriMet Executive Director of Operations Robert Nelson sent a letter to CPO1 regarding low-productivity transit lines. Included in their list were bus lines 59 (Walker-Park Way) and Line 60-Leahy Road, and the Cedar Mill Shuttle. TriMet says they are aiming to make, “more effective use of our limited resources through productivity improvements that have significantly reduced operating costs.”
TriMet is conducting a “community outreach and service review” on Line 59 this spring, and a similar process on the Cedar Mill Shuttle probably during the summer. While this does not necessarily mean that either of these lines will be discontinued, it may include “service adjustments.” The evaluation process “sometimes involves experimental service changes and promotional programs to increase ridership. We then evaluate the results with community representatives and riders to determine the need for further action. Through every step of the process, we are acutely sensitive to the needs of transit-dependent riders,” the letter continues.
TriMet bus system average ridership is 33 rides per vehicle with an average cost per rider of around $2.60. Line 59 has an average of 10.5 riders with a cost of $7.70, Line 60’s ridership averages 10.2 and costs $7.96 per rider. The Cedar Mill Shuttle’s average is 5.5 rides per vehicle with a cost of $14.59 per rider. This is up considerably from the $6.30 per ride cost estimated by TriMet when they took over the service from Sassy Cab in 2002. However TriMet maintains that the service change was cost neutral—see below.
We put some questions to Steve Kautz, TriMet Manager of Service Programs. Here’s what we found out.
Does TriMet have a mission to provide public transportation to everyone in the service area, or just to provide the most economical service?
We recognize that we have a broad service area, and we try to balance transportation needs with existing resources. We have our main service network and we try to provide connectivity to this network. We realize that not every area will have the same service characteristics.
What measures were taken in the past by TriMet to publicize the Cedar Mill shuttle service?
TriMet has attended a number of community meetings and events, sent information to households in the service area, produced and distributed service brochures, and provided information about the service and registration materials through TriMet’s website.
How much did the cost go up when TriMet took over the route? How much did the ridership change?
TriMet’s operation of the service was done so as to be generally comparable in total cost. Ridership did not change much, about 70 daily rides at that time.
Why was the “established route” option discarded?
If you are referring to a “fixed route” service, I understand that in dialogue with the community TriMet heard a preference to keep the demand-responsive service.
What could be some of the “more effective ways to meet service needs in the Cedar Mill area” that are mentioned in Robert Nelson’s letter?
There could be a range of alternatives, from modifying the present service to establishing a fixed route type of service. We would be interested in hearing from the community about their needs and ideas. We want to go where people are coming from. There has been a lot of recent development in Cedar Mill and we need to update our prior information.
Many of my readers ask about the Sunset Transit Center. They inquire about the size of the parking lot and the way it fills up before 8 am. Why can’t there be a larger parking area for this station? I have heard several reasons - can’t buy more land; trains already at capacity; people drive here from other areas. Which of those reasons are true, if any, and what is TriMet planning to do about it?
The Sunset Parking Garage provides three levels of parking totaling 630 spaces. Structurally, there is no ability to add additional parking spaces or floors to the existing garage. This lot fills up early in the day since many people choose to drive to the Park & Ride lot closest to their destination, rather than closest to their homes. Additionally, TriMet does not have the financial resources allocated to purchase property in this area for a parking lot. We do encourage riders to drive to other Park & Ride lots with capacity, or to take the bus to MAX lines whenever possible. For example, Beaverton Creek Park & Ride, just west of downtown Beaverton is almost never full.
To make better use of the spaces we do have at Sunset garage, TriMet has designated spaces reserved for registered carpools. Anyone interested in TriMet’s Sunset Carpool Program should contact Arlie Adkins at (503) 962-2180. For more information on Park & Ride facilities and trip planning for bus and MAX please log onto trimet.org or call 503-238-RIDE.
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