Update: Thanks to TriMet planner Jeff Owen, we’ve resolved an error in OPAL’s calculations that overstated the ridership at some of these bus stops. The numbers listed below are correct. –MA
Portland has a very serious problem with its bus stops.
For example, here’s a Google Street View image of the stop at Northeast 15th and Knott, which sees a total of 31 people per weekday get on or off the No. 8 bus:
And here’s the bus stop at Southeast Powell and 122nd, where the No. 9 averages 249 ons and offs per day:
To be fair, it’s possible that a third-party organization, such as the Irvington church in the first photo, pays for some of the amenities at its stop. But official TriMet policy recommends installing a rain shelter at every bus stop with at least 50 boardings per day – and it’s obvious that many, many busy stops fail that standard.
At a meeting last night that marked the capstone of a two-year Metro-funded project by OPAL‘s Bus Riders Unite! organization, about 30 East Portland transit riders used a Survivor-style selection process to choose the three east-side bus stops in deepest need of improvement.
They had a lot of material to choose from.
The stop pictured above, at Powell and 122nd, was one of the three “winners.” Here’s another one, at SE Powell and 127th, that averages 38 ons or offs:
Yes, that’s a man riding his electric wheelchair the wrong way down a bike lane next to a five-foot-wide sidewalk with no curb.
And here’s OPAL’s third winner, at SE 82nd and Foster, where an average 285 people get on or off the No. 10 and No. 14 each weekday:
Will the stops OPAL has chosen be improved? Maybe. The transit advocacy group plans to approach TriMet, the City of Portland and the Metro regional government with their choices, as well as the full assessments of dozens of busy eastside bus stops that OPAL volunteers and staff completed over the last six months or so. To get involved, you can join OPAL’s mailing list.
OK, that’s the depressing part of this post.
As a transportation reporter, I’ve been to a lot of local transit policy meetings. And I’d never seen a meeting full of interested, opinionated people who looked and acted so much like the cross-section of ordinary folks you see on the bus.
There were a few reasons why this worked so well. First, there was the fact that it started at 6 p.m. at SE 161st and Stark.
Second, it probably helped that OPAL provided a supervised table where kids could keep busy:
Third, the city’s East Portland Action Plan and OPAL paid for an English-to-Spanish translator and radio headphones for people to follow along in Spanish:
Fourth, there was some quality free food: two varieties of homemade tamales.
And finally, OPAL spent a lot of time figuring out how to give people power over the decision. The first thing they did was ask the teams who’d assessed the stops to offer their verbal summaries of each site:
Organizer Hector Osuna led the audience through a three-round elimination process that required a majority vote on each of the most important stops:
By the end, the crowd’s preferences were clear:
Some animated conversations had taken place:
And everyone had posed for a group photo.
Let’s hope OPAL’s hard work last night, and over the last year, leads to some better distribution of resources for at least a few of TriMet’s thousands of bus stops.