May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

LTD: EmX approval was decades in the making

6 min read
LTD Director of Planning and Development Tom Schwetz put the March 2022 vote in context.

LTD Director of Planning and Development Tom Schwetz put the March 2022 vote in context.

The LTD Board of Directors heard one last round of public comment, before a scheduled vote on a massive expansion of EmX service.

[00:00:09] Mark Osterloh: It’s Mark Osterloh. I personally went up and down all five of the corridors that are part of this MovingAhead program, talked to people, knocked on the doors of residences and businesses and told them what was going on, asking them to sign a petition that said they were opposed to this, that they had not been notified.

Well over 95% of the people that I talked to knew nothing whatsoever about it, and were stunned to find out what were the plans, including taking away two lanes of traffic on River Road and having a bus-only lane that would be empty and having a lot of empty buses running up and down these lines.

[00:00:50] I only ran into one woman who had actually been talked to by anybody from either LTD or the city or a part of the MovingAhead project. And the people that talked to her said, ‘Oh, this is already a done deal. Don’t stand in the way of the flow.’ They didn’t really want input. They wanted to force her into submission.

[00:01:12] The plans at this point have basically been hidden from the public. They were done in 2017, but it wasn’t until Meta (Maxwell) asked to get plans in this and forced them to put them out there to the public that they were actually made available on the internet where you could go to that. Of course the LTD had somebody else being responsible for the plans instead of LTD themselves.

[00:01:37] And very few people have actually seen those or knew what they were, and they are really stunned to see what’s going to happen as far as businesses, where the property is being taken away, unnecessarily, to do the plans, especially the EmX, which running that along river road seems particularly ridiculous since they have some of the best pull-offs for buses anywhere in the city and the distance between them is actually minimal.

[00:02:07] But the biggest problem with this is the plans have been hidden from people. When they say they’ve had engagement, they pull out little sheets that show a little line where the plan’s going to be, small page, it’s supposed to represent the whole corridor, when in fact that doesn’t tell you anything.

[00:02:25] We urge you to go back and really involve all the people along these corridors that will be affected by the plans (which would include taking their property) and affecting how the traffic congestion may actually be more—made worse by these plans. We urge you to not approve the plans at this point, go back to the drawing board and have real legitimate public input.

[00:02:51] Linda Duggan: My name is Linda Duggan and I live in Southeast Eugene. MovingAhead, while only directly impacting my neighborhood with the 30th Street corridor, in general needs to have more public input opportunity regarding any changes that would impact businesses, residences, parking, signage, trees, et cetera. More coordination is needed with disaster preparedness, need for frequency and size of buses. How will these changes impact the corridors for emergency vehicles, etc.

[00:03:24] With the pandemic affecting bus ridership, do we know if EmX buses will be needed? With the impact of these larger buses on the roads, et cetera, when they may not be needed in terms of ridership, why not consider more frequent, regular size buses, can you even purchase electric EMX buses?

[00:03:44] To make these decisions without more public input from businesses in these neighborhoods seems premature given the uncertainty of the ridership post-pandemic. Important to neighborhoods that are in those corridors, is not to lose neighborhood services as a result of money spent on changes in these corridors. We need to keep neighborhood bus services to be able to connect to these corridors.

[00:04:12] Rob Zako: I’m Rob Zako, of course, I’m executive director of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation. I want to speak, of course, about MovingAhead and have three things to say.

[00:04:21] First BEST and our partners urge you to adopt the staff recommendations on MovingAhead. You saw the guest viewpoint Alexis Biddle and Brittany Quick-Warner published in the Register Guard. We shared with you more detailed comments with our updated analysis. I won’t go over that in detail. I’ll just say that over two years ago, BEST and partners undertook a detailed analysis of Moving Ahead. We submitted 20 pages of testimony. Sharing our thoughts on that in brief, our conclusion at that time was to support what we called ‘Enhanced Corridor Plus.’ Fast forward to today, two and a half years later, a pandemic later, a war later, other things, and we’ve tweaked our recommendations. I would say that ‘plus’ now includes EmX on River Road. But we’ve been fairly consistent in our support for improvements in these corridors, and we urge you to support those from your staff. Thank you for that.

[00:05:10] Second, I want to thank your project team, your staff very much. This has been a long endeavor. I believe MovingAhead has been going on for seven years. BEST has been involved in all that time, but you’ve seen your staff come and go. Board members come and go. It’s been a long haul. There are a lot of technical details. You’ve got a great staff and we appreciate all the technical and engineering work they’ve done to get us to where we are. So thank you to your staff.

[00:05:34] Lastly, and we’re not looking for thanks, but we just want to provide context. Monday night, Eugene City Council voted six to one in favor of MovingAhead. City Councilor Greg Evans would have voted in favor, but he had Zoom problems. And I think the mayor probably would have… Compare that to 10 years ago when the West Eugene EmX was incredibly controversial and it was by no means a certainty that that would pass. The difference between then and now I would have to say, is BEST and our partners… We worked really hard in the last few months to bring partners together, to find a middle ground, a middle road, to agree with your staff on how to move forward. So if this feels like no drama, perhaps that’s partly why.

[00:06:16] And lastly, I’d just like to say, because there’s no doubt of the vote (I don’t think), this may seem anticlimactic, but MovingAhead is a really, really big deal. We’re not talking about just one corridor. We’re talking about four, with the possibility of a fifth later on. We really should celebrate all the work that has gotten us to this point, and look forward to a better future, MovingAhead.

[00:06:36] John Q: Just before the vote, LTD board member Emily Secord.

[00:06:40] Emily Secord: I’m excited that we’re at this point, but I also have more reservations. You know, a lot of the public comment has really, really good and valid points about life post-pandemic and what that looks like for ridership. And I’m excited to continue exploring these topics, but I do feel like there’s some other opportunities just to make sure we’re getting enough public engagement and that we’re really doing a thorough research job, which I know we will do.

[00:07:01] John Q: After the unanimous vote for MovingAhead, LTD Planning Director Tom Schwetz.

[00:07:06] Tom Schwetz: The decision you made tonight is actually based on policy-making that’s taken place over the last several decades, beginning with the original work around regional BRT (bus rapid transit) in the 1990s. And as that work was adopted into the Regional Transportation Plan by the MPO, into the individual plans by Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, and LTD, that led Eugene to design its growth vision around those corridors. And that’s what ended up being in what we are doing with MovingAhead.

[00:07:39] So there’s lots of decision-making going on and it seems like slow progress, but I just wanted to recognize that we’re realizing a lot of the visions that folks have had for decades around how to match transit and land use and meet community goals.

[00:07:55] John Q: A thirty-year plan for Bus Rapid Transit comes to fruition. But with ridership still low after 10 years of EmX service, opponents ask: Is this still the right plan?

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