On Wednesday, Lane Transit District board members were supposed hold a public hearing and listen to a staff presentation on a modified proposal to update bus routes. But the new route proposal for Eugene and Springfield has been put on hold.
LTD’s initiative to restructure routes is called Transit Tomorrow. It aims to increase ridership for underrepresented groups, as well as the overall community.
According to the Transit Tomorrow website, half of metro routes would operate 15 minutes or faster on weekdays for most of the day. LTD Assistant General Manager Mark Johnson said the wait time for most buses will improve.
“Other than EmX and the number 11 bus—which is a Thurston bus—that's about it,” said Johnson. “That's all that we have that are on 10 or 15 minute frequencies right now. We have some 20 minute frequencies, but most of them are 30 minutes to an hour.”
But before the COVID-19 outbreak, many community members complained the current plan wasn’t in their best interest.
Parents are concerned the proposal will not benefit school children. 4J district parent Maya Rabosa spoke about the issue at a previous school board meeting. 4J high schoolers do not receive transportation to school. She said the LTD proposal would impact three of the district’s four high schools.
“Now LTD is considering eliminating or reducing the following bus lines: 28, 73, 24, 27, 33, 55, and 78,” said Rabosa. “For those of you unfamiliar with LTD’s routes, these routes serve 12 4J schools. 12. That’s for direct routes.”
LTD said all students will still be able to access the bus for school, they just might have to walk farther. But for some, the change would mean walking half-a-mile to a mile to get to your stop. Parents have expressed concern over these changes because they fear it will not be safe for students to walk longer distances unsupervised.
But Johnson said LTD is changing the routes to provide more service to students.
“So it’s really, should we provide more frequent service to 10 students or provide hourly service to two students?”
The proposal also aims to improve services to senior citizens. But at the Transit Tomorrow listening session last month, many community members—particularly senior citizens—spoke against the changes. Many oppose the plan because it will reduce routes to senior facilities, as well as cause them to walk farther.
Barbara Goldberg said route 24 is essential for her because she is no longer able to drive, and has difficulty walking.
“I lost the use of my legs and arms from an autoimmune situation overnight,” said Goldberg.
Because of her diagnosis of Guillain-Barré [Gee-lun-barre] syndrome, she’s been dependent on the bus for 10 years, and has learned to love public transportation. But she’s skeptical of whether or not LTD is truly looking at their ridership data and if they understand the community’s concerns.
“I wanna know if the people who are making this all up—a wonderful, huge idea—really depend on public service,” said Goldberg. “I wanna know that. And if you just know about it, but you don’t depend on it, then I don’t trust the plan.”
Although the current proposal may negatively impact people for now, LTD General Manager Aurora Jackson said this is a step toward fixing those problems as well.
“It is a tradeoff, and we know it's also an opportunity for us to serve our community better,” said Jackson. “Even in the long run—the individuals that are currently negatively impacted—it allows us to reimagine how they could be served differently. But we can't do that if you still have all your resources tied in to the existing structure that has proven ineffective in reducing or increasing ridership.”
LTD stressed that the current proposal is not the final decision. They have been using community feedback to draft an alternative proposal that could mitigate the current one.
The new plan was supposed to be presented at the March board meeting. But according to an LTD press release, the board will postpone the Transit Tomorrow process until the public can participate in a meaningful way. LTD hopes to revisit the process before fall.