Take the Transportation Burden off Terwilliger Parkway**
Friends of Terwilliger (FOT) met with Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran on Thursday November 11, 2021 to brief her on the status of the Marquam Hill Connector, Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project and concerns that FOT has about these transportation projects and their potential to negatively impact Historic Terwilliger Parkway. We also met with our congressional representatives’ staff virtually.
The Marquam Hill Connector is part of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project (SWCLRP) proposed by TriMet to provide a connection from the proposed new MAX station at Gibbs Street to Marquam Hill. Marquam Hill has become a complex area as it is home to Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU), the Veterans Administration of Portland, the Shriners Hospital, residences and supporting businesses, and attracts over 18,000 employees, patients, students, and residents each day from all around the region.
Several configurations were considered during the planning phase of the project, with the recommendation in 2019 to advance both an Inclined Elevator and a Bridge and Elevator for further study. The project conclusions were based on the Final Conceptual Design Report, published in 2020, and included the Inclined Elevator for the connection from Barbur Boulevard to Marquam Hill.
In November 2020, voters rejected Measure 26-218 (also known as Get Moving 2020), a proposal to fund the Southwest Corridor The following is a summary of the points made during the discussion with Commissioner Meieran:
-The proposed Connector using an Inclined Elevator does not offer adequate access or convenience to justify its expense and the disruption to Terwilliger Parkway.
-Former City Commissioner and OHSU nurse Amanda Fritz stated: “I believe the Marquam Hill connector in either configuration
(Inclined Elevator or Bridge & Elevator) is an unnecessary expense with significant environmental and scenic impacts.”
-“Either the funicular (Inclined Elevator) or the bridge/elevator will severely impact Terwilliger Parkway, and will only take passengers to the foot of Campus Drive with still a long trek up to the hospitals.” (Portland Tribune, 3/19/2020)
-The existing OHSU tram delivers passengers to the 9th floor of OHSU, which is the “common floor” and connects to most campus buildings and the VA bridge and is 332 feet above the Gibbs St. station… but the connector goes up 119 feet, little more than 1/3 of the way up, leaving passengers to walk up to one of various elevators that will get them to their destination.
-The nearest elevator to the 9th floor (in the proposed new hospital expansion) is 1000 ft. horizontally from the Gibbs St. station, but the connector will take passengers less than half way, leaving them across Terwilliger Blvd. from the lower edge of OHSU campus.
**-A PSU study on Equitable Travel to Marquam Hill discussed : “Limited transportation options leave many communities with long and costly commutes to Marquam Hill, though this burden is not equally distributed. Those who live farthest away are more likely to have lower incomes but face the highest time burden while also paying a higher proportion of their income on transportation. Time burden also depends on travel mode choice. Employees who take the bus have an average daily commute of 86 minutes, almost twice that of employees who drive alone. Time and cost have real impacts on individuals and families.” (Elevating People: Planning for Equitable Travel to Marquam Hill, 2018, PSU School of Urban Studies and Planning, pg. 24) https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/usp_murp/163/
-OHSU has acknowledged that people with mobility issues will likely have to use the #8 Portland City bus or other means to get
more directly to their Marquam Hill destinations rather than use the proposed connector and then have to get to the nearest elevator.
-TriMet has acknowledged that riders bound for the VA Hospital will likely have transfer to the #8 Portland City bus to get
from the top of the connector to the VA Hospital.
Most current bus lines that make several stops around Marquam Hill will be diverted down to the Gibbs St. Station and force riders to transfer and walk to their destinations.
-Shuttle buses are a less expensive and more versatile and convenient connection option between downtown light rail and Marquam Hill institutions.
-Shuttle buses from downtown were never studied because they are outside the defined project area and ridership of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail project. Only connection alternatives that connect to Southwest Corridor Light Rail and the SW Gibbs St. station were studied;
Others question whether there is sufficient need or demand for a Southwest Corridor Light Rail line. The following is from a article:
“Public transit advocates argue… that the new rail line will be a top-dollar project that doesn’t sufficiently address the needs of riders. They fear TriMet hasn’t focused sufficiently on how to increase its bus service and connect those buses to the new rail line. “The Orange line doesn’t link to the bus hub in Milwaukie, creating a cumbersome transfer for riders.
Former TriMet planner and transit advocate Jim Howell says he worries TriMet is making the same mistake with the Southwest Corridor Project. He says: “Just 23 percent of rides on the proposed line are expected to be transfers from other transit – suggesting the light rail line isn’t well-linked with the existing system. ”That’s ass backwards” says Howell. “I question whether this area should be top priority for rail.”
“One former Metro president says… the project may face difficulties attracting the number of riders officials want. “The current low-density land uses and auto-dominated street design along Barbur [Blvd.] are big challenges,” says David Bragdon, now executive director of TransitCenter, a New York City think
tank. “For a line to succeed, it needs to have a whole lot more housing and job density, and much more pedestrian-oriented streetscapes and station areas, than that corridor currently does.”” ()