Two interesting (and at face value, good) announcements today from the Oregon Department of Transportation:
1. Oregon and Washington have co-hired a "corridor director" to coordinate inter-city rail operations between the two states. While this alone doesn't mean much, most people who I trust on this kind of thing agree that there are many efficiencies to be gained by coordinating operations between the two states. Amazingly, that doesn't happen to the degree you would think. That is because each state is responsible for funding and running their own stretch of the rail corridor--one of many sad byproducts of our national disinvestment in inter-city transit over the past few decades. This development is not a substitute for a real business plan to upgrade the corridor, but I'll guess it is an important step towards the kind of system we want. I'm eager to see the value of this new position in action.
2. Eugene to Portland bus service to be expanded by early Fall. ODOT has, for several years, been quietly making small investments to improve bus service between different communities--working with private and public operators to get schedules consolidated into a one-stop, seamless system, and also making investments to improve service levels. Apparently, the next expansion will be the Portland to Eugene leg. From the announcement, it looks like ODOT will re-brand the existing Amtrack buses and use some flexible federal funds (remember that Oregon gas taxes may only be used to fund road projects) to expand the schedule. We'll eagerly await details, but this could be a good thing inasmuch as it simplifies existing transit options and makes them even slightly more convenient.
Inter-city transit may not be as sexy as it was a few years ago, but as a recent OSPIRG Foundation report indicates, Oregon will be smart to expand its program given the apparently structural trend of young people eschewing car travel.