Call To Action: Portland's Buses Need Our Help!

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Sign our testimony to City Council to supporting Portland's buses and the Enhanced Transit Corridors (ETC) Plan. 

Signature Deadline: Monday, June 18 at 5:00 pm!

Portland's Buses Need Our Help!
BBPDX TESTIMONY: 

Portland’s transit system needs our help. People riding the bus to work have become subject to ever-increasing commute times and time wasted in traffic. If we’re serious about growing our economy, reducing pollution, and creating economic opportunity for all, it’s critical that we free the city’s buses from traffic gridlock. 

Even as we invest in bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements in our urban center, it is becoming harder to get around the city. This is the result of many factors, including increased congestion and service cuts in the wake of the financial crisis. Our housing crisis has also played a role. A recent TriMet study found that economic displacement has been strongly correlated with declines in ridership. People with less income tend to be among our most loyal bus riders. Many have been pushed out of our urban core to areas with extreme auto dependence where a reliable commute by bus is no longer an option.

None of these trends is unique to Portland. Transit ridership is down across the country, even as we face a growing urgency to combat climate change and congestion. However, we need look no further than our neighbors to the north for a way out of this disturbing trend. Over the past decade, Seattle has seen the country’s largest increase in bus ridership. In 2016 alone ridership grew by an astonishing 4.1%, double that of any other city’s gain. And while Seattle has also made bold strides to fund major expansions in light rail, their success with buses has come from a series of inexpensive, targeted improvements. The city has worked to identify and fix bottlenecks, resulting in streamlined service that is fast, efficient and reliable. Seattle, which is growing even more quickly than Portland, has succeeded in making bus service that scales.

Meanwhile in Portland, bus service is getting worse as we grow. Despite carrying far more passengers, our buses are stuck in traffic alongside cars and Uber drivers cruising for fare. Service has particularly degraded along our arterial roads carrying commuters from East Portland and other neighborhoods far from our urban core. We cannot wait for the next billion dollar light rail to fix this problem, and we needn’t. The problem is not funding; it’s political will. We must prioritize the bus over other less efficient modes of transportation.

Lucky for us, Portland’s planners have a plan to do just that. Drawing on the success of Seattle, the ETC will make targeted, inexpensive fixes to improve service on some of Portland’s most critical bus lines. Business leaders must step up and demand that Council adopt the plan. Our bus system, long neglected, is rarely the subject of rousing political stump speeches and visions for our cities. However, perhaps our leaders will take note if our shrewdest business leaders rally behind our buses. After all, improving bus service makes great business sense. It can be done quickly and is one of the most cost-effective tools we have for decreasing car dependence. Combined with the electrification of our bus fleet, the ETC can help us get back to making progress on our climate and air quality goals. As we plan for a visionary transportation funding bond for 2020 and beyond, let us not forget the humble bus.

 

Sign our testimony to City Council to supporting Portland's buses and the Enhanced Transit Corridors (ETC) Plan. 

Signature Deadline: Monday, June 18 at 5:00 pm!