Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 12.3.09

Amazon Option 
The best of the EmX choices for west Eugene
by Tom Schneider

While James Lewandoski’s Nov. 19 Viewpoint “Dissect and Destroy” points out problems with the West Eugene EmX going down the mixed-use path corridor, he fails to answer the basic question: How else do we get people out of their cars other than creating an inviting public transportation corridor? 

Perhaps the Amazon route is not optimal, but West 11th is not a perfect world. Arguments like his — “Keep things the way they are” — were used 10 years ago when Portland was bringing its light rail system through neighborhoods. Now Portlanders love their nationally recognized public transportation system, and property values close to it have gone up.

Eugene’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) took an initial look at the four options proposed by LTD at our Nov. 12 regular meeting. Before I had seen the other option choices, I too thought it was a bad idea to route a transportation corridor along the non-motorized path. The BPAC has made no decisions on recommending one option or another as of yet, but several members, myself included, were much more open to the Amazon option once we heard the details and saw how poor the other choices were.

A functioning, inviting public transportation system is a key component to getting people out of their vehicles. More than 1,100 families live within a quarter mile of this Amazon EmX option. This option will improve the disastrous access to the retail on West 11th and provide residents a way to leave their cars at home.

The Amazon channel is man-made for flood control, not as a natural “creek.” Much of the channel west of this section has been widened to 12:1 side slopes that allow for real flood control, a meandering stream and much more natural habitat for wildlife. Widening the channel in this zone has long been the city’s plan.

LTD is considering hydrogen-cell or hybrid buses that may be able to go through this area with little noise or fumes. A blind member of the BPAC expressed concerns that EmX buses are too quiet!

The 6th/7th Avenues option would require expensive acquiring of full new lanes from residences nearby. Costs of a West 11th option are astronomical and could cost several jobs as not all 60 businesses may be able to relocate. The 7th Place/Seneca option has few residences along its route and would not have the ridership that an Amazon option is guaranteed with so many people living so close by.

Look at all four options. Consider the potential costs and investigate which choice is best overall. This could be the start of a shift away from Eugene’s “car culture.” Let’s not waste it on holding onto old ideas or short-sighted concepts.

Tom Schneider is a member of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and its public outreach sub-committee. He’s a 25-year resident of the neighborhood that is closest to the EmX Amazon option. He also started the Safe Passages Project and has worked on the Bailey Hill Road Safety Committee for two-plus years.