by Carleen Reilly
MovingAhead is Lane Transit District’s process for citing corridors for enhancement or bus rapid transit, otherwise known as Emerald Express or EmX. Due to the pandemic, a lengthy hiatus placed many projects on hold. I heard it said that this span of time probably worked in MovingAhead’s favor. The pandemic has given us all the opportunity to carefully consider our priorities, both personal and civic, sorting through what is wishful thinking and genuine needs. MovingAhead is an example of focusing on needs.
A joint work session between Eugene’s City Council and LTD’s Board about MovingAhead was encouraging. Five corridors were explored for capital investment, and comprehensive public comment was collected for River Road, Highway 99, Downtown Eugene to LCC campus, Martin Luther King Boulevard, and Coburg Road.
For River Roaders, Council members were unambiguous in voicing support for the River Road corridor for the next leg of EmX with Highway 99 following close behind. However, several councilors expressed their wild enthusiasm for upgrading all five corridors.
The most frequent reasons cited in favor of River Road’s corridor were because of robust neighborhood engagement and that their neighborhood plan is beginning the adoption phase. Councilors wanted to take advantage of the investment of time and money educating neighbors and businesses with 5 years of outreach. They noted that the River Road transit corridor is a major segment of their neighborhood plan, and EmX would reduce vehicle miles traveled with increased bus frequency.
Highway 99 was supported for equity purposes, serving under-served and lower-income neighbors. More public transit would increase ridership and reduce cars on the road. It was generally agreed that Coburg Road would be more difficult and expensive as a lot of right of way would need to be purchased, and construction would interfere with activities of many businesses. MLK Boulevard is problematic in that Springfield hasn’t indicated that they are willing to expand EmX across their boundary. MLK could utilize the enhanced program to provide safe pedestrian crossings. It already has good traffic flow. LCC could be well served by increased transit services. The question was asked about whether neighborhood buses would be reduced, and an LTD staffer replied that EmX will “not affect neighborhood buses.” The need for micro mobility for neighborhoods was mentioned.
General comments about upgraded transit services included addressing congestion, providing safer transit corridors, retaining neighborhood buses, and fostering good land use changes associated with transit. Councilors asked that funding flexibility be maintained in order to grab funds that might become available for specific projects along a corridor, such as pedestrian crossings. Councilors were interested in collecting even more community input and business outreach. They were reminded that 5 years of outreach was conducted for River Road corridor residents, property owners, and businesses.
Climate change was frequently discussed as public transit upgrades are a major tool to reduce vehicle travel. Specifically, LTD’s plan for electrification of buses was shared, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A few comments stand out:
- Councilor Zelenka: “It will never be any cheaper. Implement MovingAhead as soon as possible.”
- Councilor Groves: “Wider doesn’t equal safer.”
- Mayor Vinis: “Each corridor has its own story.” “Be clear as to whether we are doing planning or implementing–actually beginning construction.”
As the community looks to the future with the hopes for a major reduction in greenhouse gases, an increase in the availability of public transit would be our best hope by decreasing vehicles on the road. Let us choose wisely and plan well.
Carleen Reilly has lived in the River Road neighborhood for over 40 years. She served on the RRCO board of directors from 2007-2013, and has been involved over the years with the Joint Strategy Team (JuST), the Santa Clara-River Road Outreach and Learning project (SCRROL), and the Santa Clara-River Road Implementation Planning Team (SCRRIPT)
She publishes a weekly e-newsletter called “River Road Community Resource Group Newsletter” that focuses on land use, transportation, parks and open spaces, economic development, and Community interests as they are related to neighborhood planning activities in conjunction with the Santa Clara neighborhood. If you would like to subscribe, you can contact Carleen at: carleenr [at] gmail [dot] com.