June 16, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

‘New era of LTD’ begins with focus on communication

4 min read
Lane Transit District CEO Jameson Auten: "We have some big questions to answer in the future—the very near future. And we want this to be that process that starts the new era of LTD."

Public anger over two plans promoting bus rapid transit led to the first city council recall in Eugene history. In response, the Lane Transit District launched a community steering council, which held its first meeting Sept. 13.

[00:00:15] LTD CEO Jameson Auten: Last summer, the MovingAhead project—particularly over on River Road and how that played out a bit—led to some conversations before I even got here; phone conversations with various people and then in-person conversations with various people and then people who weren’t even involved in the MovingAhead dialogue.

[00:00:35] There was a common theme throughout the conversations relating to, ‘How do we gather information and how do we engage the public?’ And you know, ‘You guys sitting down in your headquarters and make these decisions and then and nothing comes out of it.’ So that was a key theme that emerged through that.

[00:00:56] So I thought it was important—before we actually did a big heavy lift on any major capital projects—to take a pause and assess where we are, how we’re communicating with the community, and if something needed to change, be able to make that change.

[00:01:14] So that’s the origin for this conversation, quite frankly, and I think it’s bigger than MovingAhead and bigger than River Road. I think there, there are some big longer-term decisions that need to be made beyond an EmX route.

[00:01:27] And by the way, EmX wasn’t necessarily what was going to be put on River Road to begin with. And I think that communication didn’t resonate as well.

[00:01:36] John Q: The pandemic has altered the landscape for mass transit.

[00:01:42] LTD CEO Jameson Auten: We’ve gone through a major thing worldwide. We’ve had people move in, move out, and I think everything has changed.

[00:01:50] We have a new board coming in for LTD. Three of our board members had their first meeting in January. I think the longer-tenured ones have maybe two years left on their appointment, so relatively new board. I’m coming in new as well.

[00:02:05] So I felt it was the perfect time to really kind of pump the brakes and have this conversation, see what was going on.

[00:02:14] John Q: One of the community steering council members is Linda Duggan from the Southeast Neighbors Transportation committee.

[00:02:21] LTD CEO Jameson Auten: I’m going to look at my friend from South Eugene. We’ve had conversations with South Eugene neighbors on what service looks like there. And I think it’s important to have this conversation, understand how we’re communicating, but also down in Cottage Grove, where there’s going to be some turnover as well and figuring out what, what needs to go there and beyond.

[00:02:40] I live off of Crescent Avenue and I see the 66 and 67 buses going up to Valley River (Mall) and the 12. And I also see the bus going into Coburg and I think I can almost throw a baseball to Coburg (if I use my son’s arm).

[00:02:55] But you know, there’s an EmX that connects not too far from there that connects you to the rest of whole network. So, I look at these things and I wonder: If we’re going to consider big changes and we’re going to consider changes that help our communities, we’ve got to get the communication right. So I felt that this was the perfect time.

[00:03:13] John Q: By adopting its own bylaws, the council will operate independently, with LTD providing support.

[00:03:21] LTD CEO Jameson Auten: We’re here to participate, but we’re not here to control the process. What we want to do is have a process…that our community can stamp and stand behind that’s transparent. We’ll take this process and we’ll use it for all of our projects moving forward. We’ll come back in the future and revisit what’s working, what needs to be revisited. So it’s important that we get this right.

[00:03:41] This council, this is not LTD’s steering committee. This is the community’s steering committee. I want to be very clear and frank and upfront about that. Our board is well aware and they are fully behind this as well because we want to get this right for our communities. And my promise to you is this: This is not a one and done, all right… This is going to be deeply important to our organization.

[00:04:08] We have some big questions to answer in the future—the very near future. And we want this to be that process that starts the new era of LTD. The enabling legislation that started LTD is 50 years old right now. We’re technically a mass transit district. Now we can all probably agree to what ‘mass’ means and ‘district,’ but that word ‘transit’ has evolved to even how we operate today where we’re simply not just a transit company. We’re a people company and being able to communicate with people in our communities is going to be central to everything that we do.

[00:04:44] So with that said, I want to thank you again and just reiterate how important it is for our communities. This is not an LTD thing. This is a community thing. We want to make sure we get it right. So thank you for volunteering your time and energy into this.

[00:04:58] John Q: The council has five more meetings scheduled, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every other Wednesday from Sept. 27 through Nov. 29.

Note: The Oct. 11, 2023 meeting has been cancelled, and a meeting added on Dec. 13, 2023.

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