EmX route into West Eugene met with opposition
Mounting disapproval among some West Eugene business and residents has spurred Lane Transit District to hold community forums discussing plans to develop a West Eugene EmX bus line, but LTD is forced to sit on its hands for the time being as it waits for federal approval for an EmX extension.
LTD spokesperson Cosette Rees described the Alternatives Analysis plan as a report on a number of different options for extending EmX service west, including five “build alternatives,” which involve building extra lanes and potentially new stations for the EmX; one “no build” alternative; and one “transportation system management” alternative, which would incorporate lower cost construction, primarily at intersections. LTD changed plans for a community forum scheduled Wednesday night on the topic of expanding the EmX into West Eugene because the Federal Transit Administration hasn’t finished its review of the Alternatives Analysis plan.
Rees said businesses in West Eugene would be affected by EmX’s plans, but that LTD had met with many owners and the opposition groups were not beyond negotiation.
“We’ve met with 75 businesses and property owners,” Rees said. “For the most part, I think there is a lot of fear out there — fear of the unknown.”
LTD officials are hoping the approval of Alternatives Analysis will help quell public opposition to their plan for extending an EmX line into West Eugene. The new bus route could include
construction down West 11th Avenue, with tributary streets serviced by regular buses feeding the West Eugene EmX line. The West Eugene extension would represent phase three of LTD’s 20-year plan for EmX to improve the city’s bus rapid transit system. Phase one of EmX between downtown Eugene and downtown Springfield was completed in January 2007. Plans to continue EmX’s expansion into West Eugene have been met with resistance from owners of local businesses, many of which can be seen with large “No Build” signs in their windows along West 11th Avenue.
Rees said the EmX alternatives report would be a crucial instrument in educating people on plans for Eugene’s new bus systems. She said she hopes the FTA will approve the city’s EmX alternatives report by November, but in light of repeated delays on the FTA’s part, admitted this was still an uncertainty.
“We can’t release (the report) until FTA approves it, and they are pretty back-logged,” she said.
Roy Benson, owner of the Tire Factory on West 6th Avenue, is one business owner who opposes the West Eugene EmX extension. He said he’d held meetings with LTD, but that LTD officials could not sway his concerns that the extension would add to congestion and use property currently used by businesses. “None of us are anti-bus system, we are anti-EmX,” he said. “As far as the ridership — very few of the population in Eugene ride buses. It’s a heck of a lot of money to benefit the few.”
Benson said he has reason to believe the city’s main intention for the extension was to get some federal money designated for transportation projects.
“It’s more of a ‘we gotta get it so they don’t,'” Benson said. “That’s just not a good enough reason.”
Rees said LTD had to do a better job involving the broader community in the EmX debate.
“These business owners don’t ride the bus; their employees don’t ride the bus, and they don’t think their customers ride the bus,” she said. “We have to rally our riders. Bus riders haven’t really weighed in on this issue yet.”
University freshman Sierra Treadway said she rides the bus daily from West Eugene to campus, but said she didn’t have an opinion on the issue.
“The buses here seem fine to me,” she said. “They’re frequent and there are always spaces to sit, so I don’t know.”
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