Electric buses and trees were the main topic of discussion at the August meeting of the Division Transit Project Community Advisory Committee (CAC) on Aug. 17 at Portland Community College Southeast. The hour-long meeting was rather sparsely attended, with at least three TriMet employees among the 15 people in the audience. This was probably due to the summer heat and the fact that TriMet has already said it did not see expect to run electric buses on the Division transit corridor, which is getting a $175-million makeover that will be completed in 2021.

TriMet was at least considering the buses, Community Affairs Representative Brenda Martin made clear. The agency is doing route modeling on the corridor for both hybrid diesel and battery-electric buses, calculating such things as operating costs, frequency of recharging and number of buses needed. The modeling will be completed before TriMet orders the buses for the route, which will be 60 feet long and articulated.

The community has stimulated “agency-wide” interest in battery-electric buses, Martin emphasized. Electric bus maker Proterra would conduct a demonstration of its 40-foot bus in downtown Portland, and members of the committee and the public were welcome to participate, she said. Right now, the agency is most interested in buses from the Canadian company Flyer. Electric buses had been requested by the neighborhood associations along the entire 14-mile route between Gresham and downtown Portland, motivated by the pollution and noise of the currently proposed diesel hybrid buses. Electric buses cost more than $700,000 a piece, compared to about $400,000 for diesel hybrid buses, according to the Portland Tribune.

TriMet was organizing a workshop for CAC members on how their input is being used, Martin said. She couldn’t guarantee that all their suggestions would be acted on, she said, “but we sure as heck are trying.”

After several CAC members responded at various lengths, a summary of transit project’s summer open houses, one live and one online, was presented. About 900 comments were collected during the open houses (mostly online) and those that did not contain obscenities were reproduced in the summary. The comments ranged from condemnations of the entire project to thoughtful suggestions such as including mobility device recharging facilities at the stations along the route and concern over the well-being of individual businesses and even trees.

The comments did not provide new ideas, Martin said, as much as they revealed community concerns and their extent. That was valuable information, she said. The top subjects of comments were, in order, concerns about specific stops, accessibility, dedicated bus lanes (which will not be part of the new system), bicycle safety, station amenities, project design and congestion.

Finally, trees were discussed. Trees will be removed while creating the new transit corridor, and Urban Forestry, a city commission, requires that non-nuisance trees of a certain size be replaced at a ratio of two new for every one removed. The new trees will be used to fill tree voids along the corridor. Coordination with Urban Forestry has not begun yet. Metro will also complete the National Environmental Policy Act process to assess the environmental impact of the project. The CAC meets again on Sept. 21.

For more information about the project, visit trimet.org/division/.