A Humble Suggestion to Improve Beaverton Transit Center

Trimet opened a brand-spanking-new bike facility at the Beaverton Transit Center yesterday. Plenty of the local mandarins turned out and speechified, and for good reason. It’s a nice-looking facility, with lots of secure, covered parking for bikes that requires a card for entry. There’s even a bike repair stand, some basic tools, and an air pump. The Westside Transportation Alliance toured it with an representative from Trimet:

I have two problems with this set-up. First, I’m not sure it’s necessary, and it’s definitely not what cyclists want.

In a post at BikePortland.org, Jonathon Maus talked to TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane about the project: “There’s only so much space on the [rail] cars, no matter how many hooks we put on there,” McFarlane said. “If we’re really going to have a lot of cycling access to the MAX system we need to have a different way to solve the problem.”

By a different way, Trimet means the way they prefer. Just last month, Maus summarized results from a large study in Los Angeles that concluded,

Survey respondents overwhelmingly said that being allowed to take their bike on the train influenced their decision to travel by bike and rail. Of the 477 people who responded to the question, 65 percent chose “allowed to take bike on train” as a factor that influenced their decision. (my emphasis)

Trimet could not have known about those survey results before breaking ground on its two-bike and-ride facilities (there’s another in Gresham). But they actually did their own survey in 2008, one which produced even more definitive results:

more than three-quarters (76%) cited that they needed their bike to reach their destination, and indicated that they were not willing to use secure bike parking at their boarding station instead of bringing their bike onboard. (my emphasis)

I like that Trimet surveyed cyclists like me, but it’s discouraging to give them such a overwhelming mandate to let us take our bikes on trains, only to see them ignored because limitations they describe only a few paragraphs later:

However, several factors constrain expanding existing space dedicated to bikes onboard trains. The principal constraint is the space required to serve the growing number of passengers at peak hours.

To recap: more than three quarters of cyclists told Trimet they would prefer to take their bikes on the trains, and Trimet responded by … building an expensive facility to encourage people not to take their bikes on trains.

My second problem is that the station is still poorly designed for cyclists and pedestrians. Let’s consider a use case of a cyclist wanting to take his train on the MAX to head eastbound, where downtown and Portland State University are. First, the cyclist must walk his bike on the platform:

I don’t dispute the rationale for this. If I were a pedestrian, I wouldn’t want to be broadsided by a cyclist. But once the cyclist has dismounted, what’s the next step? He needs a ticket. Here’s the problem: for all eastbound trains, the ticket machine is at the far end of the platform.

The eastbound Blue Line track at Beaverton Transit Center. Note the ticket machine on the far left (with the blue and white signs on it), far from where cyclists and pedestrians enter the station. The machine for the eastbound red line train is also at the far end of the platform.

For every cyclist that needs a ticket for the eastbound MAX, they need to walk their bike the entire platform to buy one. Every pedestrian entering the station that needs a ticket to head eastbound needs to cross the platform, too. Now look at a map of the transit center:

The center is only accessible by Lombard Ave (unless you walk behind stores in an adjacent shopping center). So almost all the pedestrian and cycle access to the station–including people using the new bike park and ride–comes from the west, yet the ticket machines are on the east.

This seems like a small issue, until you multiply it. For me, it’s the same problem, multiple times a week. And I’m far from the only one using the station. In the video above, Trimet’s Colin Maher said that Beaverton Transit Center is the system’s busiest, with 18,500 MAX boardings each weekday, and 12% of those are cyclists. Unless my math is incorrect, that’s 2,220 cyclists who have to struggle every day with a poorly designed train platform.

Here’s my suggestion: Trimet, you spent $275,000 to build this facility, yet the positioning of your ticket machines is backwards. Please move at least one of them to the other side of the platform, the one where people actually enter the station.