The transit agency that serves the Portland metro area has proposed closing a station near Providence Park, two stations near Pioneer Place and the Skidmore Fountain station in Old Town.
TriMet says closing the stops, that are lesser-used and in close proximity to other stations, would reduce downtown Portland MAX travel time by two minutes in each direction.
At a TriMet board meeting Wednesday, about 20 people spoke against the stop closures — specifically against closing the Skidmore Fountain stop.
“The Skidmore Fountain MAX station represents more, much more than 30 seconds in commute time,” said Jane Gordon, vice provost of the University of Oregon’s Portland campus. “It represents an area of town that continues to fight to be seen as legitimate and important. It represents organizations that have taken a chance on a neighborhood that others have turned away.”
Most speakers were Old Town business owners or employees, including Nicole Tignor, owner of Floyd’s Old Town Coffee. The coffee shop is a block away from the Skidmore Fountain station.
Tignor said many of the shop’s customers travel via the MAX and that the closure would affect “about 10%” of her business.
“That’s a lot of money,” she said. “Big business in Portland is on the rise. If you say you’re for local businesses, put your words and actions behind that.”
Hugh Donnelly is director of administration and facilities at the nonprofit Mercy Corps Northwest.
Along with making it difficult for people to get to businesses in Old Town, Donnelly said closing the Skidmore Fountain stop also brings safety concerns.
“We have thousands of visitors and occupants in our building every year,” he said. “Most of them do use the Skidmore MAX station to arrive from the airport or their homes every day — very often in the pre-dawn or after dark hours in, what you know, is an unpredictable neighborhood with an ongoing history of safety issues.”
Mercy Corps employs a security agency to keep an eye on that MAX stop every day, Donnelly said.
“I have significant worry about the safety needs of our occupants if they have to walk blocks away, away from the watchful eye of our security,” he said.
There have also been discussions of making the Skidmore MAX station a weekend-only stop due to its close proximity to the Portland Saturday Market.
“Portland Saturday Market opposes a weekend-only stop,” said Howard Bierbaum, acting executive director of Portland Saturday Market. “A weekends-only schedule is divisive and pits Saturday Market’s needs against those of our neighbors including Mercy Corps, the University of Oregon, Airbnb and other small businesses and social service agencies in the neighborhood.”
Bierbaum also argued that making the stop weekend-only would make it harder to maintain in terms of cleanliness.
TriMet’s board plans to vote on the closures at its June meeting.
If approved, it would be the first time TriMet has ever closed a MAX station.