The Corvallis City Council wants to go forward with a transit development plan and wait a bit on city charter reform.
That was the outcome of a work session Thursday at the Madison Avenue Meeting Room. Councilors reacted positively to the transit plan, which is designed to guide Corvallis Transit System service for the next 20 years. Charter review, which was brought to the group after community outreach and data collection by Ward 1 Councilor Penny York, likely will not be addressed until the next council takes office in January.
The transit plan, which was forwarded to the council on a unanimous recommendation of the city’s transportation system plan steering committee, aims to achieve four goals:
• Adding Sunday service.
• Operating with more frequency.
• Operating later in the evening.
• Improving on-time performance.
The plan includes short-, medium- and long-term objectives. The short-term list, which also includes a new downtown circulator route, would be paid for with current funding. New funding sources would be required for the second and third phases, although the city is counting on new state support from a $5.3 transportation spending package the Legislature passed in 2017.
York cheered the changes for Route 8 that will provide easier access to the new state Department of Human Services facility on Southwest Research Way. Hyatt Lytle of Ward 3 praised plans for a Route 6 express bus from South Corvallis to downtown.
Suggested additions included better timing of routes for Oregon State University students, particularly in the evenings, and more rain shelters to protect riders in inclement weather.
Former OSU Professor Court Smith, who has been working on with another ex-OSU professor, Dave Bella, on transportation alternatives, spoke during the community comments section. Smith and Bella have testified frequently at transportation sessions. Smith questioned whether the plan will help the city reach its climate goals and said the city should think outside the box a bit and look at low-mass vehicles for downtown loops and autonomous transit vehicles that would respond to rider demand.
Smith noted that ride-hailing services might make it harder in the future for fixed-route systems such as CTS to remain relevant.
The council is scheduled to officially act on the transit plan at its Aug. 20 meeting.
York’s charter review project included reviewing how the city manager is hired as well as councilor terms and wards, compensation for councilors and the mayor and the broader question of how frequently the document should be reviewed.
Councilors agreed that the city manager piece of York’s project might be doable quickly. The current charter limits the length of the search to six months, which those participating in York’s project found unrealistic. York recommends that the term be extended to one year, with possible three-month extensions an option for the council.
Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, a member of the Corvallis School Board, testified on the charter review and strongly encouraged councilors to look at the compensation issue, noting that the volunteer requirement is a “barrier” to attracting a more diverse pool of candidates. Al-Abdrabbuh said the mayor, who receives $100 per month, should be paid a full-time salary and that some sort of stipend plus health care benefits should be available to councilors.
York is retiring at the end of the year after three two-year terms on the council, and it remains unclear who will play her advocacy role on the issue in the next council.