The city seems to be mostly quietly adjusting to the most recent round of public transit budget cuts. Rider grumbling hasn't stopped the price of a TriMet ticket from jumping to $2.50 or brought free rail back to downtown.
Except in one neighborhood, where outcry over September's transit cuts is loud and clear and gathering steam. In NE Portland's Woodlawn neighborhood, the complaints will actually lead to change, with TriMet promising to repair the situation.
TriMet cut service on nine bus lines and reconfigured 15 others to save $1.1 million this year—$500,000 of that came from whacking the last 2.5 miles off the #8 bus line, which used to end at North Portland's Jubitz Truck Stop. Businesses and residents along NE Dekum in the Woodlawn neighborhood were mostly surprised to learn that the end of the line changed overnight, now dropping buses, drivers, and riders middle of Woodlawn's fledgling business district four blocks east of Martin Luther King Avenue.
Now, up to three buses at a time line up in front of Woodlawn Park and at peak times, six buses an hour circle the outdoor cafe at the Firehouse Restaurant.
For the past two months, neighbors have been meeting with TriMet to voice their complaints about the change. They're joined by TriMet drivers, whose union penned a forceful letter (pdf) in September saying the change has stressed out drivers.
The complaints get to the dirty work of driving a bus. The buses lingering next to Woodlawn Park make a choke point for traffic on Dekum. Unlike at the truck stop, the noise and diesel fumes created as the buses arrive at the end of the line, idle, then turn around again, irritate neighbors and business owners who are trying to create a cute, walkable neighborhood.
"It's loud. It's smelly," says Mark Hoskins, who owns the business Upcycles near the new end of the line. "Locals felt blindsided."
Ending the line at the small park instead of a truck stop has created a rather pressing problem for drivers: There's nowhere to pee. The two businesses that agreed to let drivers use their bathrooms say they've seen twice as many come in as TriMet said there would be.
"TriMet management has deemed not to include enough time in their schedules" to continue to the route to Jubitz, where there is a bathroom bus drivers can use 24 hours a day, reads the union's letter, signed by President Bruce Hansen. "For the local businesses that have the outside cafes, we totally understand the annoyance of diesel fumes your customers are subjected to."
Though it bungled the roll-out of the #8 reroute, TriMet has made some changes in response to neighbor complaints. The agency posted signs saying that all idling buses must be turned off and TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch says that as a temporary fix, 40 percent of the buses will use a different layover location in the spring.
But Hoskins and the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association want 100 percent of the buses back to the truck stop and pronto. Frustrated by meeting with TriMet reps at in their neighborhood, they're planning to show up in force to TriMet board meeting next Wednesday, November 28th.
"We're suffering, so we're asking them to make some sort of change as soon as possible," says Hoskins.