After several years of planning, the Portland region's next big transit investment is moving forward. A better bus on Division is on its way.
What happens next? Here are some basic questions and answers about what's now called the Division Transit Project.
Did you participate in the Powell-Division planning process? What worked well? How could we improve? Tell Metro
Visit TriMet's new Division Transit Project page to stay involved as this project moves forward.
1. A lot happened in the last few months. Where did things end up?
After several years of planning, community engagement and meetings, the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project steering committee recommended that a rapid bus project move forward between Portland and Gresham at its Nov. 7 meeting.
The committee's recommendation for what's called a Locally Preferred Alternative, or LPA, next traveled to each of the project's public partners for consideration. In December, the Portland and Gresham city councils, Multnomah County Commission and TriMet Board of Directors signed off.
The LPA is the basic definition of the project and it is a formal step that helps make the project eligible to apply for federal funding. It defines the project route and where it ends, general station locations, and which type of transit mode will be used.
See a map of the proposed route:
The locally-preferred alternative includes:
- a mode called bus rapid transit, including longer buses that don't stop as much, board faster and use technology to bypass congested intersections, along with a suite of station improvements for riders' comfort
- around 38 stations
- a 14-mile route, with buses running on the Portland Transit Mall in downtown Portland, crossing the Willamette River on either Tilikum Crossing or the Hawthorne Bridge, and following Division Street from Southeast Eighth Avenue in Portland to the Gresham Transit Center.
2. What happens next?
In December, the locally preferred alternative was formaly adopted by Portland and Gresham city councils, Multnomah County Commission and TriMet board of directors.
The Metro Council will consider adopting the locally preferred alternative into the region's comprehensive transportation plan this spring. At that point, the project will become eligible to apply for $100 million from the Federal Transit Administration to help build it.
TriMet will lead the next phase of the project focusing on the project design and engineering. They will continue to work project partners and the public to clarify whether Tilikum Crossing or the Hawthorne Bridge would better serve riders on the new line, the locations of stations and how people will get to them, and more specific details on how the line will look and operate.
That process will take a couple of years. Throughout it TriMet will engage business owners, employees and residents along the route to hear their concerns and hopes for the line in their community. TriMet expects to begin construction in 2019. Get involved on TriMet's new project page
3. What will this project do?
The transit project is expected to bring several key improvements: More room on board carrying 60 percent more people on each bus, better comfort waiting and riding, and 15 to 20 percent faster trips than today's 4-Division. In addition, improvements will help the bus stay on schedule.
Currently more than 10,000 people ride the Line 4-Division daily. Throughout the day, buses are often packed, with too many riders getting passed up. Investing in this popular route with longer articulated buses means they can fit up to 60 percent more riders. Better stations with safer pedestrian access mean riders will have a more comfortable experience. Traffic signal technology will help the bus to keep moving and ensure riders get where they are going on time. These improvements will reduce travel times up to 20 percent, with buses running every 15 minutes and more often during rush hour.
Improvements at stations may include painted crosswalks, better lighting and rapid flashing beacons that will help people get to their bus and improve safety in a high crash corridor.
In addition to faster, more reliable transit service on Division, the planning process has helped advance dozens of other transit, safety, active transportation and community development projects that will benefit residents, businesses and visitors to the corridor.
4. Will there be an environmental impact study?
No. This project will not undergo a full environmental impact study because it is not anticipated to have significant impacts to the built and natural environment.
Instead, Metro will complete a less-complex process known as a Documented Categorical Exclusion that describes the avoidance negative impacts and any mitigation measures recommended to avoid negative impacts from the project.
As TriMet continues project design, it will include input from community and business stakeholders so that the final project reduces or avoids any negative impacts.
5. What will Metro, TriMet and other partners do next?
Getting the high capacity bus service line designed and built is just one thing happening in the Powell-Division corridor. Each of the project's partners has plans and commitments it will undertake in the coming months and years.
- Metro: The Metro Council will consider adoption of the locally preferred alternative in spring 2017. Metro staff conducts limited environmental review. Metro advances Powell Boulevard in an update of the plan for future light rail or rapid bus lines.
- TriMet: TriMet leads design, engineering and outreach phase for the Division Transit Project; prepares federal funding application; builds project beginning in 2019; continues implementing other local bus service improvements from its Service Enhancement Plan.
- Portland: Portland continues building local projects to make walking and biking in the corridor safer and easier, and works to fund and implement a Local Action Plan to preserve and expand affordable housing and economic opportunity in its section of the corridor.
- Gresham: Gresham continues building local projects to make walking and biking in the corridor safer and easier, and works to fund and implement a Local Action Plan to support community economic development in its section of the corridor.
- Oregon Department of Transportation: ODOT continues funding and building safer crossings on Powell Boulevard and 82nd Avenue, and advances Outer Powell Safety Project.
- Multnomah County: Multnomah County continues supporting affordable housing development and safe transportation choices in the corridor.
6. How did public input play a role in shaping the project?
Through three years of planning, this project has included scores of community meetings, one-on-one dialogues, online surveys and culturally-specific and multilingual outreach. Thousands of people have provided input online, in writing or in person.
Public comments helped inform multiple aspects of the project, including its route, station locations, mode and what kinds of other local, regional and state actions should happen as the project is built.
In addition, the project steering committee included community members in a decision-making role. The steering committee defined the goals of the project to include not only transportation and efficiency, but also the well-being of the existing communities and equitable benefits. These values provided a lens that shaped the project throughout the planning phase.
Key themes from the public throughout the process that are included in the project plan include:
- identify a lower cost solution that can be implemented in the short term as a first step to addressing community transportation and development needs
- avoid major property impacts to businesses and residents
- improve pedestrian safety near stations
- choose a route that can serve important destinations
- prioritize options that provide a faster, more reliable trip
- an improved bus is a better choice than light rail for this line
- proposed improvements on Division will be better than existing bus service
In addition to shaping the transit project, public input helped guide project partners on a variety of actions that also need to be taken in the corridor, including more opportunities for affordable housing, business support, biking and walking safety, and increased bus service on north/south routes that intersect with Division.
Summaries of all phases of community input are available in the project’s online library.
7. This was called the Powell-Division project. What happened to Powell?
Early in the planning process, the steering committee expressed a preference for Southeast Powell Boulevard as the route from the Willamette River east to 50th, 52nd or 82nd avenues, where it would transition to Division Street.
However, as the project team conducted traffic analysis and engineering design, it became apparent that a Powell alignment was not feasible for a near-term project. Here are a few reasons:
- Powell Boulevard in inner southeast Portland is very congested. Making bus service more reliable would require extra roadway width, but Powell is constrained by buildings and sensitive land uses, including parks and schools.
- Converting a lane on Powell to transit only in order to increase bus travel times was not viable due to heavy car traffic.
- Using 82nd, 50th or 52nd avenues as a transition between Division and Powell would have significant property impacts, including potentially acquiring and demolishing buildings and businesses.
- Aside from the property impacts, the cost of increasing right-of-way on Powell exceeded the amount specified in the federal grant the project will apply for.
- Without extra roadway width or incurring significant property impacts the project could not be designed on Powell to achieve the type of travel time savings and reliability desired, which was a high priority goal for the project.
But that's not the end of the story for better transit and safer transportation on Powell. Metro, TriMet, Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation are continuing to work together to develop near- and long-term strategies for bus improvements, a potential future high capacity transit investment, safer walking and biking, affordable housing and other equitable development along Powell.
8. How will this project be funded?
The project is estimated to cost about $175 million, with $100 million from the Federal Transit Administration's Small Starts funding program. The remaining $75 million will be funded locally. Much of this has already been allocated by Portland, TriMet and Metro.
9. When will the project open?
The new Division Transit Project is expected to begin operating in 2021.
10. What will the new line be called?
That question will be answered in the next phase of TriMet planning. The project is being called the Division Transit Project for now.
11. How can I be involved going forward?
During the next phase of the project TriMet will lead outreach and communications.
TriMet staff will meet extensively with business and property owners and residents throughout the corridor to better understand potential impacts from project construction and operation. Input during this phase will be linked directly to project design work so that all efforts can be made to minimize or avoid negative impacts. To sign up to receive project updates from TriMet, go to trimet.org/division.
Visit TriMet's new Division Transit Project page to stay involved as this project moves forward.
Did you participate in Powell-Division project planning? What worked well? How could we improve?