“We did that really by allowing the Portland region to be able to have in their state implementation, to be able to have as one of the strategies, land use that would in fact cut down on the amount of driving necessary.”
To make transit successful, Hansen says he’s seen many European communities in particular that have created places pedestrians want to be. What does that include? “Safe crossings at streets … slower traffic, it has to have interesting things to look at or coffee shops or various other things,” he says.
“A pedestrian-friendly city is key because every transit trek starts with a pedestrian. The question is how do we really make that work well together.”
While in Australia in the capital city of South Australia, one of his major messages to them was to make it pedestrian friendly. “It isn’t going to really work no matter what kind of transit, you’ve got to make it pedestrian friendly.”
A Look from the Outside
As one of the anomalies of becoming a general manager that hasn’t grown out of the transit world, Hansen has a different view of the industry.
“There are some exceedingly good people in the industry, but I do think that in the long run, the industry has to not be quite so insular.” He adds, “I think there is value to be able to have more people with different sets of experiences … being able to expand views is always important.
“I think that too often in any field, but the transit field in particular, people get very insulated and they, as a result, get very defensive and say, ‘Well if they just understood, or , If they knew what it was like.’ And the answer is, unless we are able to explain that in terms that people really understand and also take responsibility for the things that we do have control over, you’re never going to be able to get ahead of that issue.”
Reflecting on his time at TriMet, there are four areas that he’s most proud of, including expanding service on the rail and frequent bus side, the participation of the community and then the use of technology.
“We have expanded the backbone of the system, that is the light rail,” he says. Three lines have been opened during his tenure, including the Airport Max Red Line, the Yellow Line, the Green Line and they’re halfway along the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project.
The frequent bus service has been expanded from four to 16 routes. The all-day-long and into-the-evening service comes at least every 15 minutes seven days a week. “Frankly our high-frequency bus service is really the workforce of the bus side, it will always be very, very important,” Hansen says.
“As a regular rider, I know, we do the normal rider dance. Get to the bus stop, you look down to see if a bus is coming, you look at your watch, you proceed back and forth and repeat the process again,” he says. “If you know you can get a bus that comes at least every 15 minutes, at worst you just missed it so it’s 14 minutes, but on average, 7 1/2 minutes.”
He stresses, “You don’t have to think about it with the frequent bus. You don’t have to think about whether it’s on Saturday and therefore only comes every half hour or is it Sunday and it doesn’t come at all. It’s predictable.”
Expanding employment of minorities and women, as well as their participation in construction projects is the third point mentioned. One of the commitments he made when he came to TriMet he says, was to restore African American communities that had not been treated that well by other major public works projects.
“When we built the Max Line, we involved in direct hires and contracting people from those minority and lower income communities and we did it in such a way that really built capacity in those small contractors,” says Hansen. “They could bid on bigger contracts and such and we did it in a whole lot of very creative ways. We set the bar very high and in fact, is now the bar being used.
“Most recently the deputy secretary of transportation sent out a letter, a “dear colleague” letter and we were listed as one of the models.” He stresses, “I’m exceedingly proud of that.”
Finally, he says the fact that they are a leader on the technology side is something else he has been very proud of.