The City Council voted unanimously on the direction of Cottage Grove’s transportation options Monday night.
At issue was an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Cottage Grove and Lane Transit District (LTD) in which LTD provides funding to the city to cover the cost of operating a Mobility on Demand (MOD) Pilot Project. Councilor Kenneth Roberts was absent from the vote.
MOD, a transportation service billed as having “an infinite number of on-demand stops” in Cottage Grove, launched Jan. 14 and is slated to continue through Feb. 2, 2020. The service allows passengers to book trips anywhere within the city by using a mobile app, the website or with a phone call. Passengers can schedule their pick-up and drop-off times and locations for the cost of $1 per ride.
As part of the project, local transportation service South Lane Wheels has been contracted by the city to provide the operational end of the MOD program with two of its shuttle buses.
The need for the MOD project comes with a planned reduction of trips by LTD to the Cottage Grove area. The city’s Route 98 loop is scheduled on Feb. 3 to end service of four weekday trips and slightly alter another two, greatly reducing LTD bus options for midday commuters.
Because failure to approve the agreement would end the MOD Pilot Project and no more changes to the LTD route can be made until June, approval of the agreement was a forgone conclusion for many.
“We’re between a rock and hard place on this one,” said Mayor Jeff Gowing in an agenda session on Friday.
“If you don’t adopt the MOD, you don’t have the loop and you don’t have the connector route,” explained City Manager Richard Meyers at the same session. “If you do the MOD, you may not have the loop, but at least you have the MOD there.”
Entering the agreement was delayed at the previous City Council meeting to address minor concerns and a slightly revised contract was presented Monday night, notably with a requirement that LTD obtain written consent from the city before any contractual changes are made.
According to the agreement, LTD is providing $146,760 for the cost of operating the MOD system with South Lane Wheels.
In addition to this, the company still provides its own services.
“We have always offered door-to-door service and that concerns local destinations as well as up to the Eugene/Springfield metro area,” said South Lane Wheels Executive Director Ruth Linoz. “So if what’s offered through the Mobility on Demand service doesn’t fit people’s needs, they have that option on weekdays.”
As of the Jan. 14 launch of the MOD Pilot Program, South Lane Wheels also suspended its Route Around Town service.
“The logic there is, the Mobility on Demand is cheaper, more flexible, more hours of service and people have a chance to use LTD’s fare system,” said Linoz. “It just didn’t make sense to continue our service when that was available.”
Mark Johnson, Assistant General Manager for LTD attended the City Council meeting to address questions and concerns.
City Councilor Greg Ervin questioned Johnson on how subsidies for the program might be impacted as ridership grows.
“We’re committed to working with the city and with Ruth at South Lane Wheels to make sure that we respond accordingly and appropriately to better serve people and make sure they get where they want to go when they want to go there,” said Johnson.
Johnson also presented data showing that, out of 201 trips so far, the MOD service had an average wait time of eight to 12 minutes and median ride times were five to 10 minutes.
More information about the MOD service can be found at www.ltd.org/system-map/route_MOD/ and more information about the changes to the Route 98 loop can be found at www.ltd.org/system-map/route_98/.
Other items at the meeting included:
Cottage Grove Housing Needs Analysis
ECONorthwest, a Eugene-based economic consulting firm, presented a plan for 20 years of future growth in Cottage Grove. In identifying land with development capacity, 391 acres of vacant or partially vacant unconstrained buildable land was found. The plan suggested the city would have to build, on average, 69 new dwelling units per year to meet the demands of the area’s projected growth.
The analysis recommended updating housing policies by monitoring land availability, creating development opportunities particular to the city’s needs, supporting affordable housing for low- and middle-income households, coordinating infrastructure planning and identifying funding opportunities.
The council voted to adopt the housing policies into the city’s comprehensive plan.
Emerald Ash Borer
An informational presentation was given by Urban Forestry Committee Chair Reilly Newman on the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest which consumes and eventually kills ash trees. The insect has reportedly reached parts of Western Colorado and is moving northwest, threatening various habitat types and potentially causing local extinction of Oregon’s native ash species.
Water Treatment Plant Expansion
The City Council authorized an engineering contract for expansion of the Row River Water Treatment Plant. The project, contracted with construction engineering company West Yost, will increase the plant’s gallon-per-day capacity from 4 million to 6 million and is estimated to cost $245,000.