2015 was a year of growth and change for Portland Streetcar and we are continuing that momentum into 2016. Since first opening service from NW 23rd Avenue to Portland State University in 2001, PBOT and Portland Streetcar, Inc. have worked together to continuously fine tune and improve the efficiency and reliability of Portland Streetcar. Work was done to improve signal timing and sequencing, improve crossings with TriMet MAX, improve scheduling to better align the overlapped service, create a couplet in the Pearl District on Lovejoy and Northrup to reduce congestion in the PM peak, and improve signage related to parking next to the alignment. Throughout the process discussions have been had at many levels about the next phase in improving service, both for the safety concerns and to improve reliability of service.
After opening the Central Loop in 2012, Portland Streetcar started looking at the possibility of stop consolidation, or combining two stops located very close to one another. The conversation began in earnest a year later when a subcommittee of the Citizen Advisory Committee created a list of projects that could reduce travel times and improve reliability. As of December 2015, the majority of the projects on that list have been implemented including: the new added track and signal timing on SW 4th & SW Montgomery allowing streetcars to travel in both directions; new traffic signals at NW Couch on both 10th & 11th Avenues; and the new striping on SW 10th & 11th Avenues converting the right lanes into Streetcar and Right-Turn-Only lanes. The next suggestion on the list is the consolidation of stops.
Several factors were taken into consideration in all of the conversations surrounding the upcoming trial closure. First and foremost was that no stop should be considered at this time without an alternative for riders within two blocks. We also looked at ridership data, collision and near-miss data, reports of delays and firsthand accounts from our operators who are out on the alignment every day. It was after evaluating all of this data that the list of stops narrowed to the five locations closing on a trial basis February 1.
SW 10th & Stark was first placed on the list in 2013 and has remained a candidate throughout all updates. The stations at SW 10th & 11th and Everett were a part of the discussion from the beginning as well but were added to the final list after conversations with the City on coordination of signal timing progressed. The plan is to improve the signal timing to allow a streetcar to leave Couch at a green light and progress all the way to the stop at Glisan. The biggest change on the list was the switch from discussing the closure of the stops located on SW Harrison Roadway between Naito Blvd and Harbor Drive to the stops located on SW 1st & Harrison. This change came after looking at the collision and near-miss data and an extensive survey of the operators. This location is a point of great delays, particularly during the PM peak, with vehicles turning left in front of the streetcar when it is stopped at the platform preventing the streetcars from moving forward to the light at Naito. All 5 locations respectively serve 1% or less of daily riders on Portland Streetcar.
Public comments and feedback will be collected throughout the trial period including at a public hearing in the Portland Building (1120 SW 5th, 2nd Floor, Room B) on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:00PM, via email, phone, Twitter and Facebook.