Now that the West Eugene EmX extension has been built and is operating, how do we feel about it? Some may wonder about that since we made quite an effort to oppose the project. The answer to that question? Mixed. We’ve always been supportive of public transit and the ridership on the West Eugene EmX has been very positive. The overall project outcome appears to be successful and we may yet see more development along the corridor as a result. At a cost of $100 million dollars, a lot of money was injected into the local economy during the build out.
Still, we sympathize with businesses and land owners that lost land and or business as a result of the project. If any lesson is to be learned it is that those stakeholders need to be engaged early on in the project – preferable before any planning has occurred. While many landowners were contacted during the project, the actual business owners were not consulted early on as they should have been.
What the West Eugene Emx project lacked most of all was leadership and vision. Project proponents had the vision, but they didn’t properly engage their stakeholders to help develop a shared vision. Land and business owners found out about the plan after it had mostly been created. Had they been consulted before the planning process, they may have seen the opportunities and benefits the project might create. Certainly any property developer in the West Eugene corridor can see that the mixed residential-commercial development along the EmX route would be a boost for business and the overall economy. By not making the business and property owners part of the vision, LTD and the city also missed out on an opportunity to form strategic partnerships and alliances to help support the execution of the project and roll out of the service.
Eventually everyone moves on and the EmX controversy will fade in our memories. Still, it’s important to define success partly by what is learned from the process and to always seek common ground with those involved.