Bus Lane Gets Critical Reception at Neighborhood Assoc.

[Posted Friday, April 8, 2022]


At a Zoom meeting of the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association on Wednesday, April 6, supporters and detractors of PBOT's plan to reduce traffic lanes through Hillsdale got their chance to speak up.


While the project received a smattering of support as a welcome improvement, the overwhelming response was skepticism about the need, PBOT's claims that impact on neighborhood streets will be low, and the timing. Many commenters also expressed concern about the impact on local businesses already struggling to recover from the economic effects of the pandemic. (Click here for feedback on the project received by the Hillsdale News ).

The PBOT plans for SW Capitol Hwy in the Hillsdale business district include designating one lane in each direction as a BAT lane, short for "bus and turn." Cars will still be able to make turns from the BAT lane onto intersecting streets and access business parking lot driveways, but through traffic will be restricted to one lane.

An initiative of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Rose Lane Project aims to improve travel times for bus riders throughout the city. In Southwest Portland, that means converting one lane of SW Capitol Hwy in each direction to a bus-and-turn-only (BAT) lane. Expected benefits include a 1-2 minute reduction in travel time, greenhouse gas reduction, and improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.


PBOT staffers April Bertelsen and Nick Falbo attended the April 6 meeting, saying that plans are being finalized now and construction is expected to begin in late summer of 2022.

The westbound BAT lane will start at the east end of Capitol Hwy off Barbur Blvd and end at the intersection with Sunset Blvd. The eastbound BAT lane will start on Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy just east of the intersection with Bertha Blvd and continue to the bus stop in front of the Hillsdale Food Park.

Those critical of the project took issue with just about every one of PBOT's points justifying the traffic change. But the biggest sticking points seemed to be timing and community engagement.


Critics see the proposed BAT lanes as solving a problem that doesn't exist and would like to see the project delayed 1-3 years. PBOT staffers conceded that current levels of congestion do not slow bus transit time. But they said that now is the time to implement the lane reduction, while traffic counts are still low as pandemic effects on the traditional work commute linger.


Sales at Paloma Clothing, said co-owner Mike Roach, have only returned to about 70% of what they were before the pandemic. "The last two years have been the most difficult in our 47 years of business," he noted. Jayesunn Krump, owner of Portland Camera Service, asked for the project to be paused, saying, "I wish you guys would just pump the brakes on this. Doing it now doesn't solve a problem. Let the small businesses recover."


The requested delay in implementation would also allow time to address another concern voiced at the meeting: community engagement. Staffers contend that PBOT has created many opportunities for community input on the Rose Lane Project going back several years. PBOT has indeed held city-wide public forums, but now, with the plans already in the process of being finalized, is the first time it has directly engaged with the Hillsdale neighborhood.


Bertelsen and Falbo stressed that the Rose Lane in Hillsdale will be implemented under a new four-step approach that provides for a monitoring period following installation. They added, however, that while modifications may be deemed necessary, Rose Lane installations are unlikely to be removed as a result of data collected during monitoring.


Bertelsen said that any decision to delay rests with Joanne Hardesty, the city commissioner in charge of PBOT, and Chris Warner, director of PBOT.


Additional Information and Resources


The Hillsdale Business and Professional Association will host a discussion with PBOT staff on the SW Capitol Hwy Rose Lane Project on April 20 at 8:30am. Email HillsdalePDXhbpa@gmail.com for information on how to attend the meeting.


Rose Lane Project website


HBPA questions submitted to PBOT


PBOT memo in response to HBPA questions


—Valeurie Friedman

 

Boon or boondoggle? Is PBOT pitting transit riders against neighborhoods and local business? What do you think?