Friday, February 27, 2009

TriMet: Why Discontinuing the 33-Fremont Is Stupid

I'm fortunate to live relatively close to where I work, so using TriMet to get in to work is an option but not an essential thing. I live within a bike's ride of the Gateway Transit Center, for instance. And even though TriMet is considering altering the 15-Mt Tabor–the closest main line to me–my access to the public transportation net doesn't stand to change too much.

If you live along NE Fremont Street, and use the 33-Fremont to get in and out of town or to get to shopping along Fremont, you've got something to worry about though.

Unfold yourself a TriMet System Map (or go to TriMet's website ( and look at the PDF). The 33-Fremont starts downtown, follows the MAX Yellow Line to Russell Street, uses Vancouver/Williams Avenues to get to Fremont, then follows Fremont out to Rocky Butte on its way to Gateway.

It's that Fremont alignment I want to bring attention to. It's remarkable in that, in all of NE Portland, it's the only continuious east-west route between the Banfield Freeway (MAX Red and Blue Lines) and Killingsworth Street, a distance of two miles (more in some places). The bus that runs along Killingsworth in that area is the 72-Killingsworth/82nd Avenue, a crosstown route–you have to transfer off it to get downtown.

Moreover, even though the 6-MLK Blvd, 8-NE 15th Ave, 9-Broadway, and 10-NE 33rd Ave all go north-south through the area and some are within ten blocks of each other, east of 33rd Avenue the options drop considerably, with the only routes left into the area are the 12-Sandy (which doesn't do you well to get to the residental and shopping area round 42nd and Fremont) and two more crosstown routes, the 71-60th/122nd, and the 75-39th Ave/Lombard–meaning more transfers if you want to go downtown.

The area along Fremont Street, especially that east of NE 33rd Avenue, is going to get very very underserved soon, and if you live out in Rose City Park, getting around our fair city is just about to get a lot more difficult.

TriMet has apparently cited this route as a lightly-used route. Sometimes lightly-used doesn't mean unpopular, it really means only used by people who have no other options. A few months ago, The Oregonian highlighted the area around Cully Blvd, not too far off Fremont via NE 57th Avenue, as a place where mobility is at a minimum. The more transfers you have to make somewhere, the more time it takes and the less attractive transit looks as an option.

With the anticipated discontinuation of the 33-Fremont, people in the Piedmont and Rose City Park areas are going to feel a whole lot like their more down-market Cully neighbors.

Just because a route isn't perhaps as popular as it might be doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to cut it.

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