Which would be the better option for rapid transit between Portland, Tigard and Bridgeport Village? Should it be Portland's next light rail line? Or would a new kind of bus rapid transit be better for communities in the congested, growing corridor?
This question, known as the mode decision, is one of the biggest questions remaining in the Southwest Corridor Plan. Mode refers to the form of high capacity transit to be used – bus rapid transit, also called BRT, or light rail, better known in the Portland region as MAX.
As the leaders on the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee prepare to make a decision this spring, members of the public are weighing in with their thoughts. A month-long online survey ending Feb. 15 attracted more than 2,400 responses.
This was an online survey that anyone could choose to take. So the survey results aren't necessarily representative of public opinion overall. But they do give some insight into the factors residents think should drive the mode decision.
Most responses came from people who said they live or work in Southwest Portland and Tigard. More than half the respondents said they regularly ride transit and another third occasionally do.
Among people taking the survey, light rail was a clear preference over bus rapid transit in the corridor, with two-thirds of respondents saying they moderately or strongly prefer light rail.
Answers to an open-ended question in the survey provide some clues as to what contributes to many residents' preferences.
"This is the last major leg of the MAX system," wrote one respondent who strongly prefers light rail. "Not completing the system would be unfair to the thousands of daily (Southwest) commuters who have so far supported MAX in every other part of the metro area."
Another respondent who strongly prefers bus rapid transit disagreed, however. "Expanding the light rail system is prohibitively expensive to build and operate, impractical and inflexible for changing transportation needs," he wrote.
Other respondents raised concerns about the impacts of the transit investment – whatever mode is chosen.
"I support (high capacity transit) but to minimize displacement of existing residents and small businesses, the strategy must include housing and development components," wrote one. Others discussed the need for safer ways to walk and bike to transit, concerns about growing congestion in general and the need for better transit overall.
"Need public transit in SW badly. I-5 is a daily parking lot getting worse each year. Barbur is no better," wrote one respondent who lives in Northwest Portland and works in Tualatin. "As soon as there's a TriMet way to get to Tualatin I'm on board (besides the 96 that sits on I-5 with the rest of us)."
Respondents were also asked to select factors that leaders should consider in the decision, many of which were explored in a technical memo released in December. The most frequently-selected factors included:
- Shorter travel time
- Ample capacity to serve rush hour demand in the future
- Higher ridership
- Greater reliability
Concerns not selected as frequently, but still important to many people taking the survey, included:
- The potential to extend the line in the future
- Lower per-rider operating costs
- Flexibility when roads are blocked or in extreme weather
Many of the survey-takers' top factors mirror those highlighted by steering committee members and other community leaders in the Southwest Corridor in recent interviews.
The steering committee, which includes leaders from six cities, Washington County, ODOT, TriMet and Metro, is scheduled make its mode decision May 9. Metro staff will release a full public comment report as part of a staff recommendation on the decision by early April.
Learn more about the mode decision