TriMet's board of directors voted Wednesday to close three MAX stops in downtown Portland, approving a controversial plan for what it's calling station "consolidation" to speed public transit through the city core.

The board unanimously voted to shut down both the Mall/Southwest 4th Avenue and Mall/Southwest 5th Avenue stations, effective March 1, 2020. It also approved a pilot closure of the Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street Station effective the same date; after one year, TriMet will decide whether or not the station should be removed permanently.

The station closures, which affect both MAX Blue and Red lines, are "an important part of [TriMet's] efforts to speed up transit and provide service that is efficient and equitable," the agency said in an official statement. They're projected to cut the travel time between Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center down to 19 and a half minutes—nearly three minutes shorter than the current trip.

When polled, seven out of 10 TriMet MAX riders said they preferred faster trips, rather than more stations, the agency said.

Yet those closures have been met with significant public outcry—particularly from members of the Multnomah Athletic Club, which is near the Kings Hill Station, and patrons of Portland Saturday Market, which is near the Skidmore Fountain station. The board still hasn't decided whether to close the Skidmore Fountain station.

It will continue to monitor weekday ridership and proposed development in the area for the next few years, and re-evaluate on the station's fate in 2022.