Tag Archives: bus

Independence vs. Control

Portland has recently had several incidents in which an elderly driver mistakenly stomped on the gas instead of the brake and hit a person, car and/or building. In one incident, a baby died. So there’s been some discussion about whether people should have annual driving tests after a certain age.

A local news station interviewed an elderly man about this. He said that no one wants to stop driving because they don’t want to give up their independence.

I’ve heard this independence thing before — from myself. In college, I wanted a car because I felt it would allow me to be more independent. I could come and go whenever I wanted to, without worrying about bus schedules.

But as I listened to the man on the news, I realized that it’s not really independence that’s the issue, at least not in this time and place. It’s control.

It’s perfectly possible to get around Portland (and probably most decent-sized cities) without using a car. You can be completely independent without a car, just by using a bicycle and/or public transit.

Can you get to where you want to go just as quickly as you want to go? Probably not. It will probably take you longer. And if you ride the bus, you will have to follow the bus schedule and bus routes. So you do not have full control over getting there.

What if you are not physically able to ride a bike, or even regular public transit? Well, services are available for people who are physically unable to use regular transit. In Portland, the LIFT bus can come to your house or other location to pick you up.  It’s not that different from taking the regular bus.

However, you do still have to work with the LIFT scheduling process. You can’t just up and go whenever and wherever you want.

Another option is a taxi. It’s more expensive, but if you’ve just got to get somewhere, it’s available.

Now, leaving aside the whole issue of whether elderly drivers should be tested — what do you think? For people of any age, does a car give you independence, or just control? Is it really necessary to have full control over how we move around town?

Car-Free Challenge Is a GO!

OK, I have FIVE people committed to one car-free day each. So I will be doing at LEAST five days car free this coming week. But feel free to sign up if you haven’t already; I’ll add you in!

Thank you to John Metta, Jessica Weissman, Kathy Baxter, Juan Roman Magdaraog and Melody Murray! Please remember to leave a comment about your experience or post your own blog entry.

I was surprised that many people who responded said that they were already car-free all or most of the time.  I guess that makes sense, given that you’re actually reading this blog!

I’m scheduled to start tomorrow; five days will take me through Thursday.  Tomorrow I was thinking about taking the family to an event called Trek in the Park, where live actors re-enact an episode of the original Star Trek Series. It’s a free event, but attending would cost us $14 in bus fares round trip (or 15 miles on bikes, which I don’t think is doable for us). So, we have to decide whether it is worth it.

I’ll keep you updated.

ONE MORE! Adding Aaron Walker to the mix for 6 total days.

A Conversation on MAX

I went home early yesterday because I wasn’t feeling well, and left my bike at work overnight. So this morning, I boarded a bus to go to work, and since I’m still not at 100% physically, I decided to take the one that stops at my door, which connects with MAX.

I can never remember that the MAX train doesn’t pull forward to where the bus lets me off at Gateway, so I always end up riding near the bikes, at the very front of the train. Today, there were two bikes already hanging there when someone else got on with another bike right behind me. He stood with the bike just inside the door, and the operator quickly let him know that “bikes are not permitted in the priority seating area” and that he needed to move.

He did so, and was followed by another passenger. Their conversation was most interesting.

You see, the bike didn’t so much belong to this gentleman. He’d picked it up somewhere (I never heard where) because it had been sitting there for three days, unlocked and unclaimed. It might have been abandoned because it needed a little TLC. “It just needs the rear wheel replaced,” he explained to the other passenger, turning the bike upside-down and spinning the wheel, although I couldn’t see at a glance what was wrong with it.

He made a quick phone call, and then reported back “it’s clear.” Apparently, he was checking to see if the bike’s serial number had been reported stolen. It hadn’t. He then proceeded to SELL this bike, which he didn’t even own, to the other passenger, and they both got off MAX together.

I got off at the same stop and headed for work, shaking my head. Craziness.

Sharing Doesn’t Always Come Naturally

If you’re a regular reader (or if you know me), you might have noticed that I am at least somewhat liberal.  As a result, sometimes I get into conversations that go something like this:

Me: Taxing the rich is good!  Don’t you think those who have money should share with those who don’t?

Person 1: Nope.  I work hard, and I deserve what I get.

Person 2: Yes, but I shouldn’t be forced to share.  I should be able to choose how and when I share.

Or here’s another one.  This came up while discussing immigration on another website:

Me: I think we should make it easier for people to immigrate legally.  We have so much, and people in many other countries have so little — we could stand to share our bounty.

Person 1: Heck no, I work hard for what I have, why should I share?

Person 2: I’m willing to give to others, but don’t force me to share by bringing more people here!

So here’s what was going through my head this morning on the bus:

This is such as short bus ride (2 miles).  I wish I didn’t have to pay $2.00 each way.  Even when gas is expensive, it would cost less to drive.  Oh, I suppose my $2.00 helps cover the cost of providing bus service for everyone, but I wish I could just pay for what I use; it just doesn’t seem fair…

And then I recalled those conversations about sharing:

Oh.  Hm.

I still think the sharing principle is good, even if it does hurt sometimes.  If you’ve lived with a 3-year-old, you know it’s not always easy to share; we probably shouldn’t expect it to always be easy, even as adults.

But I do feel a little more empathy toward Person 1 and Person 2 now.

Bicycle Commuting Mama: Links for 11-26-08

Yes, I’m resorting to links.  It’s also called “putting these into a blog post so I can finally close the tabs in Firefox.”  If you’re interested in bicycle commuting, here are my latest finds.

The Well Runs Dry has several good posts on bicycle commuting:

For a different perspective, Dino Alberto E. Subingsubing tells us about his experience bicycle commuting in the Philippines.

If you need another social network to belong to (and who doesn’t) there  are now social networks for bicycle commuters.  I’m not sure I see the point — I think a widget or plugin or Facebook app might be better, as that would allow people to integrate bike commuting stats and information into their current social networks.

Finally, not exactly bicycle related, but many bike commuters in Portland also use Tri-Met, so you’ll be happy to know that Tri-Met is increasing service on 13 bus lines and on the MAX blue line.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bicycle Commuting Mama: Observations on My Bus Commute

I’ve been commuting strictly by bus for the past several days. Why? Because after I changed the rear tube last week, apparently I didn’t tighten the bolts correctly or something (or, possibly it’s not my fault at all) and the wheel slipped out of alignment mid-commute, stranding me at NE 113th and Glisan. It’s wonderful place to be stranded. The bus line on that part of Glisan (#25) is one of those really useful lines that only runs once per hour in each direction. Really, Tri-Met, on Glisan? I understand it at least a little on my dinky neighborhood street, but on Glisan? Anyway, I ended up walking my bike (despite the fact that the tire was rubbing against the frame the whole time) to a friend’s house on NE 110th and getting a ride.

I still haven’t fixed the bike. I’ve gotten tired of fixing the darn thing, but I’ve also simply had better or more important things to do. Fixing the bike hasn’t been a priority.

So I’ve been back on the bus. This means we leave about 20-25 minutes earlier than we were previously, and walk to the daycare provider’s house, and then I get on the #15 on NE 102nd (sorry, Tweeps, I get off at Burnside, so we’ll probably never run into each other).

It works quite well. I’m getting to work on time and I am much less sweaty on arrival. The odd thing I’ve noticed is that I rarely see the same people twice on the bus. I think on Friday and Monday I saw the same two people at my bus stop, but otherwise, it’s been different people every day, both at the bus stop and on the bus.

I’ve been pondering a few possible reasons:

  • People in this area are not regular bus commuters. They only do it when they have to.
  • People in this area are not Monday-Friday workers. Or they work different times each day.
  • People take different routes depending on the circumstances (there are at least two different lines running on this section of NE 102nd).
  • People are like me and sometimes (or usually) ride their bikes. I have been seeing more and more bike commuters in this area.

But even if I am the only Monday-Friday gal on the bus, it’s working for me, and I’m happy, although I’d like to get back to the bike (this one or a new one) at some point.

Bike Lanes and Pollution

So, bike riders, why do you ride a bike instead of driving a car?  I’ll bet one reason is to reduce pollution, right?  So why is someone saying that increased bike usage actually causes MORE pollution?

Ugh.  KATU is running a story tonight about this.  It’s also in the Wall Street Journal.  Apparently, Rob Anderson of San Francisco is claiming that bikes and bike lanes hold up traffic, which creates more pollution because of all the cars idling, going slowly, and in general spending more time on the road.  A couple of years ago, he managed to stop the city from implementing a bike plan without an environmental review.

It’s true that cars sitting in traffic put out more pollution than cars that go quickly from point A to point B.  However, Mr. Anderson’s theory begins with an assumption that cars will always outnumber bikes.

Well, Mr. Anderson, the point of having bike lanes, bike racks, etc., is to encourage MORE people to ride bikes.  We need to get to the point where bikes, foot traffic, and mass transit are outnumbering private cars.   That’s what will really reduce pollution (and reduce our dependence on foreign oil).

Readers?  Will cars always outnumber bikes?  Will we get it together, or are we too stubborn?

I-5: Bridges, busses, bikes, and I can’t think of a b-word for light rail

Non-Portlanders, bear with me — this is a local issue, but it’s probably the sort of thing that may come up in your area too (or perhaps it already has).

Summary of the situation:  I-5 crosses the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.  The bridge there (actually two side-by-side spans) is in need of repair/replacement/expansion due to age and increased traffic. The current Locally Preferred proposal (so designated by six local partner agencies) would “replace the existing Interstate Bridges to carry I-5 traffic, light rail, pedestrians and bicyclists across the Columbia River. The new bridges will not have a bridge lift. They will carry three through-travel lanes and up to three auxiliary lanes for entering and exiting the highway in each direction. Like today, northbound and southbound traffic would be on separate bridges.”

Problem:  Naturally, not everyone agrees with this plan.  Some think it will just encourage more car traffic and urban sprawl.  Some think we shouldn’t bother with light rail, just cars.

Why am I thinking about this today? President Bush has just designated the I-5 bridge replacement as a high priority project, which will make it happen much faster.

What I think:  I’m strongly in favor of alternative transportation.  I think we need to get out of our cars — and yes, I need to do better with that, too.  However, we aren’t going to eliminate all car and truck traffic.  In fact, one of the main reasons for fixing the I-5 bridge problem is that I-5 is a major truck route, transporting goods up and down the west coast.

We also need to have a safe crossing for the cars, trucks and busses that are on the road.   We don’t need a bridge collapsing into the Columbia River.

So, I think we do need a new bridge, along with the promised pedestrian/bike/transit upgrades.  As far as preventing increased congestion and sprawl goes, I think that’s another matter entirely.  We do need major lifestyle changes — but we’ve got to convince people in some other way, not by bottlenecking traffic or by allowing a bridge to fall into disrepair.

However, the issue is even more complex than thatOther potential problems include contamination of Vancouver, Washington’s drinking water resulting from bridge construction, air and noise pollution affecting residents near the construction site (many of them low income), and possible effects on endangered species of fish in the Columbia River.

After reading all of that today, I’m still somewhat reluctantly in favor of the current proposal.  I think it best balances the needs of area residents.  I do think the project managers should be required to take all possible measures to protect the environment and area residents, though.