September 25, 2021

B.E.S.T. welcomes new board members; LTD staff thanked after ‘virtual tour’ of SE

SE Eugene evolved along with the 50-year-old LTD system, and today serves a large transit-dependent population.

SE Eugene evolved along with the 50-year-old LTD system, and today serves a large transit-dependent population.

Two persons gave public comment at the March LTD board meeting: Linda Duggan of the Southeast Neighbors Transportation Committee and Rob Zako of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation (B.E.S.T.)

Rob Zako: I’m Rob Zako. I’m executive director of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation. And this evening, I really just want to say, ‘Me too.’ I want to echo comments from President Vargas and from General Manager Jackson, welcoming Michelle Webber and Susan Cox to the LTD Board of Directors.  Really excited to have both of you. The work of LTD is really critical in our community. It’s more than just providing transit service. It’s really providing opportunities for people to get to work, to school, to shopping, to doctor’s appointments, and really appreciate both of you stepping up to help guide this important work.

We also want to say, ‘Me too.’ B.E.S.T. has now supported three separate COVID-19 relief packages and we’re pleased that in all three cases Congress has seen the wisdom of that and that LTD continues to get money to fill the gaps in funding during this very difficult time. So we’re really pleased at the latest package. It sounds like we’ll be providing another $32 million to LTD. And we look forward to seeing where LTD goes from here.

Linda Duggan: My name is Linda Duggan and I am speaking on behalf of the Southeast Neighbors Transportation Committee. We wish to thank board member Don Nordin and LTD’s Aurora Jackson, Mark Johnson, Pat Walsh, and Cosette Rees for meeting with us and with Eugene City Councilor Matt Keating on February 25th and letting us share the stories of our neighborhood. We also wish to thank LTD planning, staff for sharing LTD network data with B.E.S.T. and Eugene neighborhoods. We appreciate the opportunity to share our neighborhood’s stories.

John Q. Murray: Linda and others organized with help and encouragement from Don Nordin, B.E.S.T., and Friendly Area Neighbors in response to Transit Tomorrow’s timetable for closing 54 of 75 bus stops. Southeast Neighbor Jess Roshak prepared a virtual ride-through of the neighborhood, showing who uses those 54 bus stops.

Jess Tuerk Roshak: I moved to Eugene about 15 years ago and the whole reason why I was able to stay was because of LTD. And I wanted to say that and thank you guys, because it really drew me to the community in the first place. And it kept me here because I was able to get around. I was so blown away after, being in, all over the world, I was looking for a place like this that had public transit that I wouldn’t be car dependent. And this was, this is such a unique place because of that.

For anybody who doesn’t live in the Southeast or South Eugene region, we wanted to just highlight what the unique qualities of this area of Eugene are.  We’re not special snowflakes, but one of the unique things and that almost 30% of our population is either a K-12 student or LCC or UofO or other other student of some kind. And that is really significant and high levels of transit dependency, public transit dependency in those populations.  Only the University neighborhood has that high a level of student population. Ten years ago when Eugene went school choice, large populations of students actually came to depend on LTD for their transportation to school. So that’s significant. We have a higher than average population who uses the bus to commute, to work to and from work, higher than the Eugene average.  We’ve also got a large population of people here who maybe have a car at home, but moved here because of the bus. And that’s because the LTD has been operating here for 50 years and the neighborhood has grown up around these routes or very similar iterations of these routes. So it’s attracted many transit- dependent or transit- loving people for that reason alone. We’ve got lots of group homes and assisted living and emergency shelters. there’s a 400 to 500 foot elevation gain between Amazon Parkway and the top of our neighborhood. I think that there, I heard a few misconceptions that somebody said that people in South Eugene could just buy cars if the bus discontinues here. And it’s not really true… We get the feeling that there’s not a lot of people at LTD familiar with the region south of 18th as a resident commuter user of the bus.

John Q. Murray: Southeast Neighbors were first shocked by the proposal, and then frustrated when trying to communicate with LTD. Rachel Smith Anderson suggested that each LTD meeting could include a question and answer session, to create two-way communication.

Rachel Smith Anderson: I remember attending some board meetings and I appreciate the chance to speak early on, and then just the feeling of frustration where I talked to the board, but then you never get a response back. And so you feel like you’re talking, that it’s not a conversation. So really my, for my part, what we hope to get out of this meeting and hopefully future working meetings is to feel like we’re on the same team that I’m speaking and that I get responded to. And my questions get answered in a real two-way. We heard about the listening sessions for Transit Tomorrow but I remember feeling like the listening sessions were not listening sessions. They were more like, ‘Here’s our presentations. Here’s what we’ve decided. Here’s why we’re doing it.’ But it was like wait, you’re missing some pieces. And so we had a chance to write on a piece of paper, what we thought about that. But really we haven’t been involved earlier in the big decisions and when some problems came up it was hard to actually feel heard because it was like, the train’s moving forward, you could have called, you could have stepped in five years ago if you want to have an opinion, but it was all done before we even really knew what was going on. So it didn’t feel like the neighborhood was involved in letting them know, letting LTD know what our needs were and making sure we protected certain things. And we’re happy to give up frequency in exchange for coverage or, we’re happy to get in the weeds and that’s what we want to do. We see that as our future. Collaboration with LTD is being in the weeds and LTB saying, here are our limitations. These are our budget limitations, these are our driver-hour limitations. And then us saying, ‘Okay, we can handle less frequency, if you’ll make sure that the assisted living centers are included, and the low-income housing, and things that were left out of the Transit Tomorrow original model.’

John Q. Murray: Linda Duggan championed accessibility for those with quiet voices.

Linda Duggan: Just from a personal perspective, I live near Emerald Valley Assisted Living, and while my mom was living there, there were several residents who were taking the bus. They were still capable physically and so they were taking the bus. There were caregivers who were bus- dependent to get to their jobs. One night worker had been taking the bus for 11 and a half years for her night shift. We have people who were more in the neighborhood, residents that may not have been involved in any of those organizations. My son, for example, chooses not to drive. He’s a consistent bus rider. And then, I can tell you, because I passed the corner every day that originally in Montessori, they have a whole bunch of kids at that bus stop. Those are stakeholders that may not have necessarily been in any of those groups that you met with. So I just want to remind you that there’s individuals and people that are living in the neighborhoods that are dependent on those buses that may not have had any input.  So I think it’s important that not just ridership is looked at, but that all people should have the access to public transportation. And those people are usually the people who have the softest voice in our community. And I guess, being a retired special ed teacher, I always think of, that somebody needs to advocate for those people. So even though things may change, I think we still need to provide access.

John Q. Murray: Jess Roshak suggested that LTD change its public engagement model from inform and move towards consult, involve, and collaborate.

Jess Tuerk Roshak: We do see transit planning decisions falling lower in the recent past on this public engagement scale of more like telling the public what’s going to be happening, and soliciting feedback, but marching forward. And so we just wanted to posit our belief in the good parts of involvement and collaboration and empowerment.  If there is the sense that you guys have made decisions or have made up sort of the direction before you engage the public, then there will be a sense of frustration and resistance and anger,  which we’ve seen a lot of evidence around our neighborhood, particularly last year, including residents moving out of our neighborhood due to the impending threats of transit changes. And that was what really got my attention. Disabled neighbors believing that this was going to happen and moving to Springfield. So as someone who is, transportation has been such a large part of my life and one of the reasons why, one of the very largest reasons why I stayed in Eugene, that really hit me very hard. 

John Q. Murray: Jess welcomed an offer from LTD to share more ridership data in the future on an enhanced LTD website.

Jess Tuerk Roshak:  I’m so happy to hear that we’re thinking of this as an opportunity to look at more data as it comes in and to just really study what’s going on in this new world that we’re all in now. And I find a lot of comfort in, in hearing you say that so we appreciate that, that sort of long view of the data. So there’s so many questions and that’s why I love to hear that we’re taking a long data view of this. And then, we are, in SEN looking to protect the neighbors in our communities of concern and hearing that micromobility is on a lot of the agenda these days, we really want to put forward that we believe in micromobility, but as an enhancing mechanism, not a replacement in certain areas for fixed routes. We think that would be extremely damaging to a lot of our communities of concern.

We want the same things as LTD, which is, the best possible system with the most efficient use of resources. And we want to help collaborate and communicate rational and clear messages with our community.

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