Thursday, March 13, 2014

Portland, Ore. suburb spurns LRT

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Tigard, Ore., voters appear to have approved Ballot Measure 34-210, which specifically rejects any effort by TriMet to extend MAX light rail transit into the community.

The vote, held Tuesday, March 11, 2014, allows Tigard to amend its city charter to officially oppose LRT. Assuming no last-minute changes in the tally, TriMet would have to address any future public transit issues using other modes, such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or regular bus service options.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane told local media the agency will continue to move forward on its Southwest Enhancement Plan for bus service in Washington County cities, some of whom objected to service cuts feeling neglected after a series of service cuts were put in place during the Great Recession. "We don't consider (the ballot measure) to be opposition to TriMet bus service," McFarlane said.

The ballot measure also requires Tigard to send an annual letter to Oregon's governor, the state Department of Transportation, TriMet, Washington County, and the Federal Transit Administration, among other authorities, reiterating Tigard's opposition to high-capacity transit projects.

Tigard's action is not unprecedented. In 1991, the California legislature, urged by anti-rail voices and some labor unions, passed a law banning light rail in parts of Los Angeles County (unless LRT was placed completely underground), which led to implementation of the 14-mile Orange Line busway. But last January, the State Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would repeal the ban on above-ground rail. The bill, AB 577, has moved on to the State Senate for consideration.