Sunday, August 6, 2017

EmX West Service Begins September 17, 2017

The westbound EmX West line stop at McKinley Street.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a member of the Emerald Executive Association (EEA), without a doubt the best business networking group in Eugene. We meet each Thursday morning over breakfast, most often enjoying a presentation by one of our members; occasionally though we welcome outside speakers who provide news or programs of interest to our group. We had the pleasure this past Thursday to hear from Edward McGlone, Director of Public Affairs for the Lane Transit District. He was on hand to talk about the EmX West, the newest segment of Eugene-Springfield’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which will begin carrying passengers next month. 

Edward’s presentation was before an audience comprised of small business owners who have not been universally approving of the EmX West project. EEA is an interesting group holding divergent viewpoints from across the political spectrum. More than a handful have questioned the value of a BRT system, especially when weighed against its not inconsiderable costs. A few EEA members—Dalton Carpet in particular comes to mind—were significantly impacted by the protracted and disruptive construction work. Others simply regarded the project as a boondoggle, a prime example of governmental profligacy and waste. To his credit, Edward was as diplomatic as he could be and apologized ahead of time for the disruption to affected businesses during construction. 

The reality is public transit is an essential component of the transportation ecosystem in any community. I previously expressed my enthusiastic support for LTD’s goal of a comprehensive bus rapid transit system within its service area. Each new segment incrementally raises the effectiveness of the entire network. With the completion of its west line, the entire EmX network now stretches 28.3 miles, encompassing much of the metro area, from the Gateway area of Springfield to the north and east, to Eugene’s western extremity along 11th Avenue near Beltline. Edward said the expanded EmX system will link an additional 52,000 residents with 81,500 jobs within 1/2 mile of the route. 

The installation of the EmX West line did provide LTD with the opportunity to introduce a number of enhancements that might otherwise have not occurred. These will directly benefit the businesses and neighborhoods that surround the transit line. They include:  

  • Improved intersections with two new signalized pedestrian crossings
  • Improved street lighting for safety
  • 5 miles of rebuilt and new sidewalks
  • Curb cut-outs at cross walks to safely accommodate mobility devices
  • 3 bicycle-pedestrian bridges for improved access between West 11th, the Fern Ridge Path and surrounding neighborhoods
  • 200 more trees planted
  • Many rain gardens and water filtration systems for cleaner storm water run off
  • 26 covered bus shelters with seating and customer information
  • Public art by regional artists integrated throughout the line
All told, LTD spent approximately $100 million on the EmX West project, providing three years of local construction-related jobs. 

Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, with frequent service, quick boarding, comfortable stations, and other amenities. The service is frequent, with buses arriving at stations every ten minutes. Bus-only lanes and priority signals maximize on-time performance. EmX fare is $1.75 per trip or $3.50 for travel all day. Tickets are available at vending machines at EmX stops. Riders may use their all-day pass on LTD’s other bus service as well. All LTD passes are honored on EmX. 

The EmX system map (click to enlarge)

Regardless of where you stand on the question of whether investments in public transportation are worth it, the evidence here and elsewhere is clear. Public transportation reduces traffic congestion, saves fuel, and reduces our community’s carbon footprint. With careful, enlightened planning, light rail and BRT systems can drive community growth and revitalization while limiting urban sprawl, enhance property values, and broaden economic opportunities. Most importantly, public transportation offers personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life, particularly those who otherwise lack convenient means to travel to and from destinations. LTD and other transit agencies provide people with affordable alternatives to driving and owning a car. Everyone deserves access to job opportunities, the means to get to school, to visit friends and family, or go to the doctor’s office. I think everyone can agree on that.

Thanks to Edward for an informative presentation. LTD is building for the future. I'm looking forward to soon seeing the EmX West line in operation.  

No comments: