TriMet Bus Review: Line 92
The pandemic has hit public transit hard throughout the country. In New York City, there is talks of massive cuts to the MTA because of budget shortfalls resulting from the loss of riders on the subway. King County Metro in Seattle offered buyouts and early retirements to stop it from laying off drivers.
TriMet in Portland has not been immune either. With so many people working from home and students not attending class in person, the buses are significantly more empty than they were before the pandemic. TriMet’s ridership is a third of what it was a year ago, with 200,000 fewer rides per month.
Many buses are empty, but I have noticed that it’s the commuter buses that are the emptiest. Commuter buses before the pandemic hauled people during morning and evening rush hour. Trekking from home to office is often the one thing people think public transit does, and these buses fulfill only that role.
Line 92 is one of those routes. It runs from the Murray Hill neighborhood in South Beaverton, has a stop at the Progress Park and Ride by Washington Square Mall, and then goes non-stop into downtown Portland. It only runs during morning and evening rush hour, Monday through Friday. It also one of the least used and most expensive routes to operate in TriMet’s system.
Line 92 is the third most expensive bus, with an average cost per ride of $61.09, and it saw only 100 riders per week in late spring 2020. Compare that cost per ride with the 57’s $7.16, and the 92 is an expensive bus to operate for the few people who ride it.
Everyone should have the opportunity to ride the bus, but as TriMet potentially looks at cuts and service changes, it will have to make difficult decisions. Should it cover every area of the region, or only the parts with the most riders or where it is most cost effective? Should it continue to provide rush hour express services when so few people are commuting to downtown Portland, or should it instead use that money to maintain frequency on other more utilized bus lines? Difficult choices for TriMet I’m sure, but I hope it concentrates on making sure that working class people can continue to use transit, instead of spending it on sparsely used commuter lines.
I drove the 92 for a week in the afternoon. It was fine. I mean there may come a day when it’s fun driving a bus without stopping or picking anybody up, but I haven’t reached that point yet. Instead this Cadillac of bus lines in terms of cost per ride left me wanting as a driver. Wanting for human interaction. Wanting for someone to pull that yellow cord so I could hear the ding. Wanting for someone to act weird so I could watch them in my rear view mirror.
It starts in downtown, you swoop down Columbia, stopping a couple of times, make a right on Naito Parkway, and it’s off to the suburbs. From downtown until Progress Park and Ride there are no stops, 20 plus minutes of uninterrupted drive time.
You follow Naito Parkway onto Barbur Boulevard, make a right onto Capitol Highway, continuing on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, and then a left on Scholls Ferry Road. I’d like to say I remember what anything looked like, but its generic Southwest Portland; hills, lots of trees, no sidewalks, and bizarre intersections that go five, six, seven ways and remind me that the German word for sexual intercourse (Geschlechtsverkehr) combines the German words for sex and transportation or transit.
After you leave Scholls Ferry Road, you loop through some subdivisions in Beaverton full of houses and sidewalks, and has you singing the “Little Boxes on a Hillside” song in your head. You take a right by a fountain, yes a fountain, the one detail I remember from the entire route because, I thought wow, there is a fountain in the middle of that pond. I then thought about how ducks and geese like ponds, and how much ducks and geese poop, and how if the water for the fountain is coming from the pond, how it might just be spraying fowl excrement into the air.
Scenery wise, the route isn’t the worst. Beaverton Hillsdale Highway might be a 35 mph speed trap, but with the trees and curves, it’s visually interesting. Where this route lacks is the clientele. Barely anyone rides this bus. Most trips I had at most one or three people on the bus. Combine that with the lack of stops, and it can feel like a long sprint by yourself, and with traffic it could be a frustrating or dull route to drive. Add in no stops for a solid 20 minutes, and there is nothing to think about but the driving.
I’m guessing routes like this will have their existence questioned in the coming months as we see what kind of world we will have post-pandemic. Will all those office drones return to their cubicles downtown, or will most stay working from home? Will there continue to be a need for express buses like this? Should TriMet continue to offer such services?
To me it seems a route like the 92 would be easy to cut. Although rush hour express buses like this are popular with suburban transit users who see the bus as just something to sit on instead of paying for parking downtown, it isn’t a very cost effective use of limited transit dollars. Then again if this was the bus I depended on to get to work, I’d lobby hard to keep it. We’ll see what happens.
Would I sign it?
Probably not. It did nothing for me. However, one day I may be one of those cranky old drivers who lumber around the bull pen and say, “It wouldn’t be a bad job if you didn’t have to stop or pick up anybody,” and this bus is definitely one where you never stop and never pick up anybody. It’s a bus you just drive.
Seeing how early you can run and watching the minutes running early rack up on the computer. The Murray Hill fountain pond.
Does it go to Walmart? No
Does it go downtown? In the morning, yes.
Does it go to the Bottle Drop? No.
Does it go to the MAX? Yes, downtown.
Landmarks: Southridge High School, Beaverton Library, Portland City Hall.
Passing the 56 on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway because this bus says EXPRESS.
Need to travel somewhere else?
This is a personal blog, the views expressed in this blog are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of TriMet.