Bus Rapid Transit

Great idea, poorly implemented

September 2, 2012

detailed comments available at

www.sustaineugene.org/ltd-mx.pdf
(2 megabytes, includes charts)

Summary:

I wanted to support the West Eugene EMX bus rapid transit extension. I spent years exposing the problems of the proposed West Eugene Porkway. Documenting the WEP's illegalities helped persuade the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to select "No Build" for the planned highway.

But I have read the EMX Environmental Assessment and can't support this project, either.

Public transit can be planned well and it can be planned poorly. It can be designed to be cost efficient and it can be overpriced to give megabucks to road construction companies. Journalists have an obligation to describe the difference if they are watch dogs and not lap dogs.

Oregon law requires coordination of transportation and land use. Intelligent urban design is a factor in planning quality public transit.

In 2002 the State Supreme Court upheld Hood River's restriction on big box megastores which damage local economies and are hard to serve with transit. The City of Eugene rubberstamped more big boxes, both under Republican Mayor Torrey and under Democratic Mayor Piercy, even after initial planning was underway for West 11th EMX.

The West Eugene line would cost about a hundred million dollars, a bit spendy for a bus lane that is partly in mixed traffic, especially since giant bridges and overpasses are not included. The Environmental Assessment did not include details for the price tag even though the National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal decisions cannot be made with proprietary data not subject to public review.

After complaining about the absence of the cost estimate in the E.A., Lane Transit District sent me a copy of the project's budget. $11.6 million would be for roadway work. Utility relocation would cost $13 million. Temporary and "indirect" costs would be $14 million. New buses would cost $9 million. Right of way condemnation would cost about $4 million. Consultants would cost $14 million. Accessways during construction would cost $7 million. 27 bus stops would cost $7 million, or about a quarter million per bus stop (more than the cost of building most new houses).

The EMX study states a purpose would be to reduce traffic congestion in the next two decades.

The study uses the Lane Council of Government's LCOG's traffic model for predicting traffic trends, even though LCOG's estimates have been wildly inaccurate. LCOG and ODOT have repeatedly overestimated traffic predictions for West 11th. In 1990, an early study on the WEP predicted West 11th would be impassible by 1996 without the Parkway, and then in 1997 further predicted the same scenario by 2015 if the WEP was not built.

Traffic levels in Lane County peaked in 2003, according to LCOG and Oregon Department of Transportation. Nationally, traffic levels have also peaked, according to the FHWA. The rise in the price of petroleum forced some reduction in travel demand. Higher gasoline prices encouraged many people to drive a little less.

In 2004, LCOG stated that "real fuel prices are assumed to increase from $1.50 [per gallon] in 2002 to $2.50 by 2025, while average vehicle fuel economy increases from 20 to 30 mpg." Why were these professional planners so wrong?

LCOG, LTD, ODOT and other transportation agencies refused to consider that oil prices might rise as we reached "Peak Oil," the point where oil production reached the maximum point. Despite record prices and desperate deployment of extremely expensive technologies such as fracking, global oil production has stayed relatively constant for the past several years.

Oregon's oil supply is almost entirely from the Alaska Pipeline, which peaked in 1988 at over two million barrels a day, and has now declined about two-thirds, to the daily flow rate it had in its initial months of start up. When the Pipeline declines a little further, below a half million barrels a day, it will be difficult to continue the flow through the Arctic winter.

Before he retired, then LTD General Manager Mark Pangborn admitted to me that he agreed that Peak Oil was an important concern. LTD ignored warnings that oil prices were going to increase and then had to cut service and raise fares as more people drove less, a pattern shared by nearly every other transit system in the US.

LTD needs to rethink its long range planning to consider how to run public transit as oil prices continue to increase and oil availability continues to decline. This isn't partisan politics, the result of environmental organizations blocking oil exploration or greedy oil companies. The Earth is abundant but finite and we're passing Peak Oil. We should think carefully about how to use the remaining fossil fuels as a "bridge" to a relocalized, lower energy society.

The Lane Transit District is part of the Lane Council of Governments and is part of regional priority setting for transportation projects. In November, 2007, the Lane Council of Governments approved a proposal to spend $817 million on road expansions through the rest of the oil age, even though car traffic has peaked and is starting to decline.

Now that we are at Peak Oil, if LTD wants to find more money for running our system it could vote in the Lane Council of Government’s Metropolitan Policy Committee that our Regional Transportation Plan should not widen highways when extra road capacity is not going to be needed now that the era of cheap oil is ending and climate change is beginning. Oregon doesn’t have any local supplies of petroleum and we need to be very honest about the implications of Peak Oil for keeping our society functional.

In 2002, when the TransPlan was updated to include more of the West Eugene Porkway, LTD was the only local government that unanimously expressed support for this proposed highway addition. Other local governments - Eugene, Lane County, even Springfield - were split on the idea, although all had majorities in favor of the WEP.

It is strange - and revealing - that LTD's board was 100% in favor of a new, expensive highway project that does not even have a token tiny transit component. It is long past time for LTD's board to be elected by the voters -- perhaps those who regularly use LTD buses could be the electorate for picking LTD directors. If we had a more democratic political system, the voice of the union (bus drivers) would have a substantial say in these sorts of decisions, and the bus riders (the public) would be able to elect the directors of our public bus system.


This map shows Lane Transit District's long term plans for Bus Rapid Transit in the Eugene - Springfield metro region.

The first segment was between downtown Springfield to downtown Eugene.

The next part is Pioneer Parkway.  Ultimately, these two lines and the Eugene - Springfield line are to be linked up together into a circle line, with buses running clockwise and counterclockwise.

a good article about BRT is at www.postwritersgroup.com/archives/peir0819.htm

Bus Rapid Transit

 

www.eugeneweekly.com/2006/02/16/news.html

HEFTY PAY-OUT FOR HAMM
On Feb. 9, the Lane Transit District board awarded former General Manager Ken Hamm a $112,000 settlement in a severance package that includes nine months' salary, car allowance, taxes, insurance and attorney fees. Hamm announced his resignation on Dec. 2 and stepped down on Jan. 27 after weathering mounting criticism from LTD employees, riders and community leaders. The agency is funded by payroll taxes.
LTD Board Chair Gerry Gaydos called the settlement "reasonable and realistic," but union leaders question why Hamm should receive any settlement at all. Hamm's employment contract with LTD stipulates that no severance payment shall be made if he resigns or is terminated with cause.
"If [Hamm's] contract does not provide for any severance, then why are we even talking about it?" asked Amalgamated Transit Union 727 Executive Board Officer Carol Allred, who represents unionized LTD drivers and mechanics, in December. "The district holds the bargaining unit to our contract."
LTD spokesman Andy Vobora declined to comment, and neither Gaydos nor Hamm responded to calls by press time. Assistant General Manager Mark Pangborn will assume Hamm's former duties while the board conducts a search for a new general manager, with a target hire date in the fall. — Kera Abraham [emphases added]

 

From: Mark Robinowitz <mark @ oilempire.us>
To: editor@eugeneweekly.com
Cc: Alan Pittman
Sent: Thu, July 29, 2010 5:03:38 PM
Subject: LTD slant

in today's Eugene Weakly:

• Is LTD on the wrong track in its EmX bus rapid transit planning? We wrote in News Briefs last week about the flyer that’s circulating around town, stuck on car windshields, saying that LTD is wasting taxpayer money designing and building rapid transit routes when it should be spending on its shrinking bus routes. LTD funding is complex, but in a nutshell the regular bus routes are supported by riders and by payroll taxes paid by employers. The level of service we experience rises and falls with the economy and right now it’s down. But the funding for EmX comes from federal and sometimes state grants, and Lane County has the good fortune to be chosen for a pilot project. If EmX proves to be successful, it can serve as a model for other metro areas our size. Other benefits: The West Eugene Extension will help relieve congestion on West 11th; EmX buses carry more people more cheaply and cleanly per mile than regular buses; establishing rapid transit routes now is cheaper and easier than it will be in 20 or 50 years; and the routes are designed to be converted to light rail or whatever new transportation technology comes along. We could turn down the federal grants, but then they would just go to Spokane or some other city eager for transportation help. Why are we (even some progressives) fighting mass transit in Eugene and not embracing it enthusiastically? The details are certainly worth debating and challenging, but the big picture is clear. This is the direction we must go.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We did run numerous news stories, op-eds and letters against the plant. We editorialized repeatedly against its construction and urged LRAPA to deny a permit. Search our archives for “Seneca biomass.”

--------------------

Response:

Yes, EW did run some op-eds and letters against the Seneca incinerator (it is not a "plant," calling incinerators that don't emit oxygen "plants" is Orwellian). But EW never, ever mentioned that there's no way Seneca could fuel their facility without feeding it lots of whole trees which might be of interest to your readers who don't like clearcuts. Now that the incinerator is under construction and nearly ready to burn, a cover story (despite some errors and omissions) was long overdue. As far as I can remember, none of the public events held at the peak of the controversy were covered by any media, not from EW, the R-G or local TV and radio. There was one garbled article about the LRAPA hearing that in several cases misrepresented concerns from the public. I think there might have been a small announcement that some of them were going to happen, but no coverage of what happened at them. In particular, the Clearcutting the Climate conference had almost 20 sponsors and had ground breaking analysis of the impacts of deforestation on climate but this was not enough to get any reporters to attend or even plagiarize the presentations. Perhaps if the organizers were members of a certain political party we would have deserved coverage of the event.

 

As for the bus boondoggle ...

LTD is hoping to spend over $100 million (it's still OUR money even if first sent to Washington DC) to bulldoze the existing, locally owned businesses on West 11th so we can have an express bus to Wal-Mart and Target. Why should liberals (or "progressives") support spending that much money to subsidize Wal-Mart and eradicate local business? Public transit can be well planned and it can be poorly planned. The fact that LTD and the City are pushing to spend $100 million to tear up Franklin Blvd -- again -- even though they just rebuilt it a few years ago for LTD is a clue their planners have no credible oversight.

Your argument that we need to spend the money or else it goes elsewhere was the same argument Jim Torrey used to promote the WEP. Spending money on dumb projects is dumb.

I long ago abandoned the idea that I was a "liberal" or "progressive" (the updated euphemism). My politics are predicated more on the laws of thermodynamics and also recognizing that the Democratic Party died in Dallas on November 22, 1963 when Kennedy was removed from office after announcing his intention to end the nuclear arms race and Cold War. Our society's denial about the military industrial complex is not a good basis for a political strategy. As Frederick Douglass warned, oppressors will always seek to find out the level of abuses that people will tolerate, and the modern liberal / progressives remind me of the parable of Lucy's Football (from the cartoon Peanuts), always hoping that the next time the game will be played fairly.

Traffic levels on the national highway system have peaked, according to ODOT's website and Federal Highway statistics. As the oil declines and the economy contracts traffic congestion will decline. Electric cars will be nice toys for those who can afford them but they're not going to be built faster than the oil fields are depleting. Electric cars (fueled mostly by coal, since that's half of the grid) will not replace the existing quarter billion cars and light trucks, food delivery trucks, airplanes, freight trains, cargo ships, etc.

LTD is in violation of State law that requires coordinating land use and transportation planning since building more big box stores (ie. Lowe's) is incompatible with transit oriented overdevelopment. If the Federal Transit Administration approves this project without considering where the population densities are in West Eugene they will be in violation of federal laws that require full disclosure of the decision's impacts. And NEPA requires that "new circumstances" relevant to an EIS be considered -- if passing Peak Oil is not such a circumstance then nothing is. LTD isn't required to solve Peak Oil but they are required to look at how it impacts the project planning and to stop using bogus assumptions that "growth" will continue forever even though there are physical limits to growth that we are passing, now.

I realize that EW will never recognize that I did the technical work on the transportation law violations on the WEP, since Mary O'Brien was jealous of it especially after she and Rob Zako recommended rerouting the WEP through the Royal Blue Organics farm. Every transportation agency from the City and LTD to ODOT and FHWA was shocked at their malpractice, ODOT even publicly stated that my analysis of the "Crandall Arambula" worse route was correct. Fortunately, the transportation agencies respected my analysis, even if local liberal elites did not. My refusal to capitulate was a reason they realized they would lose in federal court, they knew I'd sue even if O'Brien and Zako offered a proposal that nullified the federal legal claims and since our difference of opinion happened before going into court I was not bound to their poor decision. It was also notable that I got Judge Hogan to promise to recuse himself from the WEP issue should it go to federal court, but EW was not interested in THAT story, again because my views don't fit your litmus test and there's toxic jealousy that gets in the way of rational discussion of the evidence.

LTD's fancy bus would be better directed up 6th and 7th to Highway 99 where the population density is. There are three clusters of population in West Eugene - Bethel, River Road and 18th Street / south hills. There is no population density along west 11th west of Garfield. One reason why the WEP would have worsened traffic on west 11th is it would have doubled and tripled traffic on north south intersecting roads and therefore jammed the relatively uncongested intersections such as Bertelsen and Bailey Hill. And the WEP traffic studies admitted that no WEP version would fix Roosevelt and 99. That is a bigger snarl than the West 11th intersections. Highway 99 would also have minimal, if any, property acquisitions for a BRT route, and therefore would be much cheaper than widening West 11th for the Wal-Mart bus.

Meanwhile, existing bus routes that people use are being cut because LTD ignored the obvious signs that Peak Oil was imminent and refused to plan for increased fuel prices and economic contraction. I hope now that we're past Peak Oil your paper will change its editorial policy and mention that reaching the limits to growth is a core factor behind the so-called recession, but that would piss off politicians who pretend that "prosperity is just around the corner."

If EW was really against the highway widening projects that Alan Pittman's news profile today mentioned, it would have given considerable scrutiny of Kitty Piercy's tie breaking vote in November 2007 at the Lane Council of Governments Metropolitan Policy Committee in favor of these road expansions. Your admission to me this week that your editorial policy is not to investigate malfeasance from "progressives" is a key part of the problem. If Torrey had been that swing vote for the I-5, Beltline and 126 widenings (among other projects) at the Lane Council of Governments when they adopted the Regional Transportation Plan, I doubt that EW would have given him a pass. Who was it that said a newspaper's role was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

The region's "top transportation priority" is to spend about a billion dollars to widen the major highways, if you look beyond patronizing rhetoric and focus on budgets and laws. As MLK said, a budget is a moral document. The main reason local governments also support LTD and token bicycle projects is that they then can claim those efforts mitigate traffic increases and therefore the region can continue to qualify for federal highway dollars. Multi modal is the mantra of transportation greenwash, but as the economy contracts we will need "transportation triage" since there won't be enough resources to widen highways AND expand public transportation. We will be lucky to maintain what we already have on the energy downslope.

This was typed with solar photovoltaic electricity and transmitted on the internet with coal, damns, natural gas, nukes and a small amount of wind.

Not a letter to the editor, but I'm sharing it with the "No Build" supporters.

Mark Robinowitz

from roads-2010-2015.html - comment on Lane Council of Government 2010 to 2015 transportation priorities

6. Franklin Blvd., Ferry St. Bridge to Springfield Bridge 25.0 million

The City of Eugene had so much fun rebuilding Franklin Boulevard (for the Bus Rapid Transit system) that they want to rebuild it again.

This project estimates that $100 million would be spent to redesign and rebuild Franklin, although this time over a longer distance. The initial $25 million would be for planning and right of way (evidently some stuff is in the way).

This proposal would extend the "boulevard" treatment through Glenwood, since the City of Springfield hopes to replace the haphazard collection of industrial buildings, pawn shops and other low rent businesses with fancier stuff. However, the fantasy of relocating McKenzie Willamette hospital to the riverfront along Franklin Boulevard would be at least as dumb as the Peace Health "Riverbottom" location, since there are five dangerous dams directly upstream from this location. An ODOT official once told this writer that a dam break could result in a forty foot wall of water through Glenwood -- which would be a Willamette Valley tsunami. If McKenzie Willamette relocates, it should be further away from a river so in case of a major flood or earthquake induced dam failure there will be at least one hospital that is not submerged.

A hidden reason behind this project is the U of O Basketball Palace -- despite the presence of Bus Rapid Transit, there is not enough traffic capacity to handle the crowds that are anticipated at this facility. The arena will have about twelve thousand seats - and the Bus Rapid Transit has about four thousand riders a day. Therefore, it would take three days of BRT service to have the so-called EmX serve the arena.

Turn lanes from Franklin Blvd in the vicinity of the arena also would be massively jammed if not rebuilt for arena traffic.

This is one of several examples of how the public is going to be forced to help subsidize this sports complex despite numerous promises from U of O President Frohnmayer and other stadium supporters that public funds were not going to be used for this project.

In ancient Rome, the commoners were kept satiated with the distractions of bread and circuses (the latter included gladiator fights). In modern America, the public is similarly distracted with sports. The U of O has numerous buildings that would be death traps in an earthquake, there is a shortage of housing for students, university professors are being lured to higher paying jobs at other schools, and tuition rates keep rising. It is a sad sign of misguided priorties that an arena partially paid for by the blood money given by Nike CEO Phil Knight (money made through profiteering from quasi-slave labor at his factories in Indonesia) dominates the priorities at this institution ostensibly dedicated to higher education. It is also sad that the rhetoric of "sustainability" flowing from the University conveniently ignores this tremendous investment of energy and money so that people can watch other people throw a ball around.

This project is probably the worst example of transportation greenwash in the metro area. The Bus Rapid Transit line is the excuse to funnel huge amounts of overdevelopment (at least as long as cheap credit to fund it holds out). However, since the fancy bus can only handle a minority of this new traffic, the rest of the people are likely to drive to these new facilities. This means that the bus is going to increase energy consumption and worsen traffic, which is not how this transit system was marketed. Even if the bus was converted to light rail and powered by electricity from burning coal, natural gas and damns (as some voices have been urging), this would not solve the broader problem of transit systems used to facilitate overdevelopment that ultimately worsens car traffic -- at least as long as the gasoline remains relatively affordable and available.

 

from the official justification:

There is significant evidence of accelerated development activity throughout the corridor. The UO is beginning construction of a 13,000 seat arena which will lead to increased traffic in all modes, and exacerbate existing deficiencies in the segment west of 1-5. Springfield has been approached by a number of potential development opportunities along the corridor east of 1-5, and the adjoining north/south street (McVay Highway). Any of these potential opportunities will severely tax the existing facility

The second BRT line planned for the metro area goes north from downtown Springfield to Peace Health's River Bottom site and Gateway shopping maul. Even if this would reduce car trips to the new hospital, it was not planned to open until at least two years after the new hospital site opens.

Any discussion of BRT traffic impacts needs to factor in the rise of gasoline prices during BRT construction, since this increase probably had as much - if not much more - impact on traffic levels than the busway.

A third BRT line is planned for West Eugene to serve the Big Box stores and West Eugene Industrial Area. Lane Transit District has started an EIS to study this route, and it is in the phase of scoping of alternative routes - whether to focus mostly along West 11th, along the Amazon bike path until it crosses West 11th, or to go on 7th Place to Bailey Hill to Stewart Road to Bertelsen to West 11th. All three of these routes have major problems. There is no room on West 11th for widening to accommodate a bus only lane (or lanes) between Seneca and Garfield roads. Building an express bus along Amazon has major environmental obstacles along with eminent domain issues. And routing BRT along 7th to Stewart would avoid the right of way and environmental problems, but building an express bus through a lightly populated area that is deserted at night (and Stewart Road is always deserted) would be a waste of money.

A more reasonable BRT route would be along Highway 99 to the Bethel area, where large numbers of suburbanites live, but the City of Eugene is not urging LTD to prioritize that route. BRT on any West Eugene route would be mostly focused on commercial and industrial areas, not mixed use areas that are better served by public transit. One of the problems of West Eugene is that the populated areas are separated by tracts of big box stores, industrial warehouses and factories, and parklands / wetlands that are unsuitable for "development." If there is a partial solution for West Eugene, stopping the relentless construction of big box stores that are very car dependent would be a primary prerequisite.

Worse, no land use shifts are apparently contemplated for West Eugene to make public transit seem more reasonable - and the City has now closed off the possibility of this by allowing Home Depot and Lowe's (now under construction) to dominate the last large "vacant" areas along West 11th inside the Beltline. Do City or LTD planners seriously think that anyone will take BRT to buy lumber supplies at Lowe's?

Perhaps if the BRT line is ultimately reconstructed, the planners will choose not to have the route weave so much - a particularly poor design choice. Incompetence in public bureaucracies is usually rewarded with an increase in appropriation of tax dollars.

 


 

Comments on West Eugene Bus Rapid Transit Scoping

Comments on Scoping of Alternatives for the West Eugene Bus Rapid Transit

November 6, 2007

Mark Robinowitz

 

Limited Purpose and Need

The Purpose and Need does not mention the reality of Peak Oil, which many experts in the oil industry state occurred in 2006. Whatever the exact timing of the peak of petroleum production, it clearly will have happened before the design year of the project (2030?). Therefore, the traffic model, economic growth projection, and energy assumptions need to factor in the reduction in energy consumption that will be forced by the end of cheap oil. While alternative energy sources do exist, none of them are more than a tiny fraction of current consumption / combustion of fossil fuels, and there are not any plans to rush substitutes into widescale implementation.

The 2005 “Hirsch Report” from the Department of Energy stated that at least two decades would be needed to adequately mitigate the impacts of Peak Oil -- but the peak is either here, or will be here soon. The failure to prepare must be included in the Scoping for any transportation projects, whether for bus rapid transit or road construction.

Sharp increases in the cost of oil and / or gasoline rationing, while hard to predict precisely, need to be considered as variables for future transportation demands and land uses. It seems obvious that energy shifts will reduce single use car travel and make transit much more necessary -- yet these changes are not yet really incorporated into long term planning.

NEPA specifically requires that "new circumstances" must be included into an EIS or EA -- and the fact of Peak Oil is perhaps the most important "new circumstance" for a transportation project (whether bus route or highway construction). See "Peak Traffic: Planning NAFTA Superhighways at the End of the Age of Oil" at www.road-scholar.org/peak-traffic.html for details.

 

Historic and projected increases in traffic congestion in the West 11th Corridor due to increases in regional and corridor population and employment;

Historically, ODOT has overestimated the potential for traffic increases on West 11th (see Final EIS for the West Eugene Porkway, 1989/1990 version, which predicted Level of Service F by 1996 without the WEP). Projected increases in traffic are unlikely to materialize considering the limitations of rising oil prices and finite ability to increase levels of oil consumption.

 

• Growing reliance on transit by the region to meet mobility needs in the West 11th Corridor;
• Prioritization of the West 11th travel shed by the City of Eugene and LTD as the region’s third BRT corridor;

West 11th is not a good “corridor” for BRT, since the road is entirely commercial west of Garfield. Few people are likely to go shopping at the big box stores via bus travel. There is no “multi use” zoning anywhere along the road, which shows the failure of Eugene’s planning department. Ideally some residential could have been infilled along the road (most notably the 11 acre site now occupied by Home Depot) but West 11th is mostly an example of how NOT to do urban planning.

 

• Local and regional land use and development goals and objectives that target the West 11th Corridor for residential, commercial, retail, and industrial development to help accommodate forecasted regional population and employment growth; and

The best thing to do with west Eugene is to down zone planned overdevelopment along West 11th west of Beltline. Virtually every square inch of proposed new paving of the landscape west of Beltline would destroy wetlands. There is no realistic way to accommodate more sprawl along West 11th west of Beltline via transit (BRT or regular bus) that would have more than a small percentage of use by the public. The proposed shopping maul at Danebo and West 11th (southeast corner) and Royal Node developments should be canceled since they would increase traffic and pollution - even if a few of the people using these facilities would ride a bus to get there.

Ultimately, the development financing charges the city uses need to be changed so that speculative real estate developers pay the full cost of transportation, school, fire and police services for their projects. Forcing existing neighbors - and the broader community - to subsidize these speculators is immoral and should be illegal.

 

Goals & Objectives

The study should examine alternatives of free, frequent bus service using existing bus fleets instead of the BRT system, since the existing BRT line between Eugene and Springfield is mostly an enhancement of previously existing service. The articulated double buses can transport about as many people as the BRT buses, and their use should be studied as a reasonable alternative.

Any BRT study for West Eugene needs to factor in the extremely hostile pedestrian environment along West 11th, the lack of safe bicycling facilities, dangerous intersections, the lack of good crosswalks and other impediments to pedestrians.

 

Issues & Concerns

A BRT line constructed merely to “greenwash” further car centric overdevelopment at the edge of the Urban Growth Boundary would be a waste of money.

Building the BRT along Franklin Blvd. to justify the Nike Basketball Arena is not a reduction of car use - merely statistical sleight of hand to pretend that we are dealing with traffic and energy issues. LTD officials have stated that building a single lane track for the initial BRT route was a mistake, and have said (on KLCC!) that more money should be appropriated to fund this. One would have hoped that the project would have been built correctly at the start, although many construction projects seem to be merely schemes to transfer public dollars to private contractors who then make contributions to political election campaigns. Some real oversight of this dysfunctional planning process is decades overdue.

A smaller issue is the name “EmX.” While some people might think that naming a bus route after Ronald Reagan’s missile experimental system (MX) is a good idea, it’s merely the type of boosterism public relations that spends lots of money without much result.

An additional concern is the strange shelters built for the initial BRT route, which seem overpriced yet inadequate to shelter waiting citizens in heavy rainstorms if there is a crosswind. Adding shelters to existing bus stops, especially those where people wait in the morning (in the direction of downtown) would make bus riding much more pleasant during the wintertime. Shelters would also benefit from improved information about bus schedules -- the Portland OR bus system has an automated system that states when the next bus is scheduled to arrive. Some cities even have automated signs that state when the next bus will actually arrive - which is important for the many routes that do not have frequent service.

Scoping of study area boundaries

West Eugene has three areas of residential population: River Road, northwest Eugene (Bethel) and West 18th (South Hills). None of these would really be served with this BRT proposal (or the WEP). Connecting these three areas together is a higher priority that a bus rapid transit to Wal-Mart that few shoppers would use. In addition, a BRT to an “office park” such as the complex on West 11th beyond Terry Street would be inappropriate since few people would need to go to that location in the middle of the day - it would only serve the morning and evening rush hours, and that does not require BRT.

A BRT on or near West 11th is likely to fail for the same reason the WEP would not mitigate traffic on West 11th - the trip origins and destinations are often not on West 11th, and neither a BRT nor a WEP would serve the main centers of population in West Eugene.

Instead, a BRT alternative along from downtown to Highway 99 to Bethel should be studied as a reasonable substitute to a West 11th route. Much of the route would have enough space to add a lane for the BRT, and this section of town needs even more mitigation for its ugliness than West 11th.

Any BRT would have to implement land use changes to the dysfunctional, ugly landscape of West Eugene to have any potential to reduce traffic congestion.

The Amazon Creek routing for a BRT line needs to be dropped, since this would have major impacts on this damaged waterway and probably would require considerable seizure of private property. This is the old proposal for routing a road along this path that was in the 1959 and 1967 transportation plans, and it should remain relegated to dusty file cabinets. Section 4(f) of the 1966 Transportation Act would require examining prudent and feasible alternatives to the “use” of public parklands along Amazon Creek - since 4(f) applies to all federally funded transportation projects, not only roads.

In 2002, LTD staff told me they were examining the potential for a BRT alignment slightly north of West 11th between Garfield and the Seneca / Fred-Meyer bus stop which would weave between the buildings to provide a dedicated route (since there is not any room for a BRT or other extra lanes on West 11th between Bailey Hill and Garfield). The fate of these preliminary studies should be included in the scoping of alternatives for the BRT.

The WETLANDS alternative to the West Eugene Porkway - archived on the internet at www.permatopia.com/wetlands.html - should be considered as part of a broader west Eugene analysis of traffic, land use and energy issues. This alternative, West Eugene Transportation and Neighborhood Design Solutions, showed how intersection fixes along West 11th, some minor tweaks to the road network, and a reorientation of the land use projections would be a good substitute for the WEP. An introductory slideshow about the WETLANDS alternative is at www.permatopia.com/wep-slideshow.pdf - and should be incorporated by reference into the scoping for the West Eugene BRT

If the “No Build” alternative for the WEP at the West Eugene Charette on June 18 & 19, 2001, had been adopted by the agencies that promised it (FHWA, BLM, ODOT, Lane County, City of Eugene), the WETLANDS alternative, or something similar to it, would have been built by now. The intransigence of Mayor Torrey and the Pape brothers are largely responsible for the fact nothing has been done to fix West 11th intersections over the past six years. More money has been spent to endlessly “study” the WEP than would be required to add turn lanes and good crosswalks for the key West 11th intersections. It would also be interesting to know why the City allowed the Dutch Brothers franchise to build a store in the right of way for the needed Chambers southbound to westbound West 11th turn lane -- the planner who permitted this should be fired for incompetence, assuming that accountability is a desired goal.

 

Support the desired land use patterns and development in the Corridor;

The planned land use and development patterns along West 11th would need to be changed to be more transit friendly in order to maximize the potential of BRT and/or improved regular bus service. West 11th is probably the least transit friendly section of Eugene, and merely adding a BRT line without making major changes to its land uses between Beltline and Garfield would be a waste of tax dollars.

Help accommodate future growth in travel demand in the Corridor;

The “growth” is the problem, not something to accommodate. The end of cheap oil means that a very different approach to urban planning is long overdue. Further suburbanization of the wetlands west of Beltline should be banned, with or without BRT.

 

Efforts to reduce climate change in West Eugene would be best accomplished by:

  • protecting existing wetlands inside the Urban Growth Boundary
  • if new urbanization is desired, it should be focused onto converted parking lots
  • mandating a shift from clearcut logging to selective logging for timber companies (potentially the biggest contribution to desertification in Lane County)
  • phasing out of toxic production in favor of green chemistry, which would apply to herbicide applications, glue manufacture for plywood, wood preservatives, and toxic compounds sold at Home Depot and other locations. Silent Spring was 45 years ago, yet it is still legal to sell 2,4-D despite the cancer epidemic. Agent Orange was a 50-50 mix of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T and the fact that 2,4-D is still legal shows that decades of environmental concern about the public health disaster of synthetic poisons has not really been taken seriously by bureaucracies.

 

the "Saving Oil in a Hurry" study referenced in the previous email should be included into the Scoping of Alternatives, and the West Eugene study expanded beyond mere BRT to include a range of alternatives that would be able to reduce travel demand, oil consumption, carbon emissions, etc. Perhaps the most important "need" for these goals is to abandon the fiction that further paving of the west Eugene wetlands can be done in an environmentally acceptable way, and the wetlands west of Beltline along West 11th, and the wetlands at Roosevelt and Beltline (currently threatened by EWEB) should be protected for their flood control and carbon sequestration purposes, not converted to concrete and asphalt.

 


 

www.eugeneweekly.com/2008/08/07/letters.html

FLATTENED DUCKS

I am writing to register my extreme disapproval and distaste for the city of Eugene using the Amazon Channel alternative for the West Eugene EmX line. I am a bicycle commuter who uses the bike path every workday to get from my home in west Eugene to my job in south Eugene.

The bike path serves dozens, if not several hundred, commuters like myself. I also daily see joggers, dog-walkers, people out on strolls and pleasure cyclists. Where are these people to go if the EmX line takes their path? And alternatively, if the city uses eminent domain to take over the properties adjacent to the path (between Garfield and City View), having the EmX right next to the bike path will endanger them, not to mention reduce the quality of experience. Who wants to go for an evening stroll with the kids only to have to worry about them getting in the way of a huge bus going 30 MPH?

Another potential hazard comes from nature. I’ve used the bike path at many times of the day, the earliest being 6:30 am and the latest being 10 pm. I’ve had near collisions with nutria, ducks and even deer, and have had great blue herons soar into the air from the creek right in front of me. Amazon Creek supports a lot of wildlife. I foresee a lot of flatter ducks in west Eugene if the Amazon Channel Alternative is used.

It seems to me that the West 13th and West 6th/7th options would affect the traffic (maybe even reduce it) on those streets. The Amazon Channel option would reduce the quality of life for many, many more Eugeneans. In this time of skyrocketing fuel prices, we should be encouraging bicycle use by maintaining and even expanding our current bike path system, not scrapping them for an ill-conceived attempt at rapid transit.

Alpha M. Wilson, Eugene