OHSU drives towards a low-car future on the South Waterfront

Go By Bike’s valet and repair shop is coming back to life after the Covid doldrums. (Photos: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

“Anything that helps someone avoid using a single-person vehicle to get to campus is good.” – Brett Dodson, OHSU

Portland’s diverse transportation options converge at the foot of the Aerial Tram near Oregon Health & Science University’s South Waterfront campus.

If you stand a few minutes on SW Moody Ave in front of the lower tram stop and look around you will see: the tram above you; Portland Streetcar rumbles by; the TriMet buses 35 and 36; Biketown and OHSU bike stations; and folks who roll their own bikes to Go By Bike, the largest bike service in North America. Look north and you’ll see the MAX light rail, you might even catch a few people riding electric scooters by.

This means people in the South Waterfront neighborhood and OHSU visitors do not want mobility options. And while the pandemic has brought challenges, the vision of a car-free future is stronger than ever.

Better share bike

An upgraded Go By Bike Share station near the tram stop.

OHSU has operated its own Go By Bike Share program free for anyone with a university email address since 2015, and the service has recently been revamped with improved bikes and a new app to make reservations easier.

About 100 people have created accounts and are using the bike-share service since they launched it last month, according to Brett Dodson, who runs transportation and parking at OHSU.

Dodson says one of the reasons he and his team want to ensure adequate transit facilities on campus is to prepare for the TriMet Division transit project expected to start this year. This project will bring improved bus service to the Division’s corridor and provide another way to get to the South Waterfront from Portland’s east side.

“We anticipate an increase in staff using this route and bringing additional ridership across the Tilikum Bridge,” Dodson told me in a recent phone call. “We need to have a way to connect them from transit and get them to campus.”

Business is picking up again at Go By Bike valet and repair shop, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. On May 10, Go By Bike parked 249 bikes, the highest number since the pandemic began.

Before the pandemic, valet parking almost rushed out of the parking lot to store people’s bikes. You’re not seeing those sorts of numbers now, with moody weather and telecommuting probably partly to blame, but the numbers are trending up.

New pedicab shuttle

Go By Bike owner Kiel Johnson tested the new pedicab service at an event earlier this month. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

OHSU used to operate a van shuttle service as an additional way to help people get to upper campus from the South Waterfront, but that went dark during the pandemic and will not return. Instead, Go By Bike will operate a pedicab service – currently the only one in town – to get people moving. Dodson says this option is important for people who can’t use a bike or scooter, and he hopes it won’t result in a net increase in riders even without the old shuttle.

“We haven’t had shuttles for a year and a half and things are going pretty well,” says Dodson. “The majority of people can get around using bicycle parts, on foot and on scooters. But the pedicab will be there to replace the shuttle for the people who need it.”

He says we should see a pedicab operational by July and depending on how things go they will bring a second.

Dodson says the pandemic hasn’t changed his desire for a car-free future on the South Waterfront and around OHSU’s campus.

“We have a strong transportation demand management plan,” he says. “Anything that helps someone avoid using a single-person vehicle to get to campus is good.”

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