The TriMet Board of Directors voted Wednesday to evaluate ridership for three years at the Skidmore Fountain MAX train station in Portland before deciding on its potential closure.
TriMet will also review development and safety in the Old Town and Chinatown areas around the station.
Community members argue the Skidmore Fountain station should remain open, partially because it’s the closest station to the Portland Saturday Market, but Doug Kelsey, TriMet’s General Manager, said its ridership numbers are still low compared to other stops.
He encouraged businesses and community members who want to keep the station open to work on making the area safer.
“We need a new community conversation model, I believe. Far beyond a train station, because otherwise the station remains at risk because relatively few want to use it because it’s not seen to be safe, not the station but the area,” Kelsey said. “And it’s reflective actually in the low weekday ridership numbers and with the weekend ridership actually declining.”
At its Wednesday meeting, the TriMet Board also discussed closing some downtown stops due to close proximity to other stations. Those include the Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon station and the Mall/Southwest 4th and Southwest 5th stations.
If approved by the Board, the Southwest 4th and 5th Avenue stations would be permanently closed and the Kings Hill station would close for a one-year trial period and be re-evaluated.
Most people who opposed the station closures during the public hearing portion of Wednesday’s meeting argued that it would make public transportation less accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities.
TriMet argues that the station cuts, specifically those downtown, would speed up both the MAX Blue and Red lines.
According to TriMet, no other city in North America has transit stations that are as close, or closer, to another station than the four stations the Board is discussing.
All of the stations in question are no more than 600 feet from the nearest MAX station.
Grant O’Connell, a planner with TriMet, said cutting the three downtown stations would add three minutes to commuters’ round trips through downtown.
The Board plans to vote on those closures at its next meeting, July 24. If approved, it would be the first time TriMet has ever closed a MAX station.