I wrote this in 2005 for the Portland Transport blog for the “My Commute” series.
I moved to Portland nearly two years ago. The trip across country took our trusty van as a sacrifice for making the distance in Missoula, so my ex and I arrived without motor powered wheels. Since I wasn’t willing to drive the beast we named Bert, this was not a concern. Especially given the fact that Portland’s transportation system is leaps and bounds beyond Michigan’s, another one of those places where you must have a car to get around.
I have lived in Southeast, Southwest, and now North Portland. All places have given me different aspects of commuting to work (next to Willamette Park) and other areas of interest, whether it be a party in Gresham, school at PSU, or seeing a friend’s band (Port Authority) play at Kelly’s or Porky’s.
I have most of my frequently used stop IDs memorized (1152, 11812, 3619, 4466). Recent living without internet has familiarized me even more with 503-238-RIDE (7433); press one to pick your bus stop. Navigating Tri-Met’s website is old hat.
Living in Southeast and now North Portland has brought me back to transferring, which I prefer not to do. Living in Southwest was less than one mile to work, so I walked every day, generally on Macadam. I am elated to learn of Metro’s desire to study the travel from Lake Oswego to Portland, since Macadam is smelly, noisy, and not pedestrian friendly.
I took the bus to school after the 8-5 quota is over, and generally the bus home, although riding my bike was about the same amount of time as waiting for and then riding the bus (10-20 minutes). Work pays for my bus pass currently because it is school related. But, this too comes at a discount (summer all zone for 2 ½ months was $75).
I haven’t ridden my bike much this summer, but it is another form of transportation I use. I love the exhilarating rush I get when speeding down a hill at 25 or 27 mph, the wind in my face, and the fact that I created that rush with my feet, the pedals, and the bike I partially maintained myself.
Flex Car fills in when I need to be somewhere very soon or a planned event: moving across town, last minute trips the ocean, dinner with a friend who is going to where I came from; emergency Vet visits to Dove Lewis; grocery shopping when carrying laundry detergent, food items, and TP just doesn’t quite work on the bus. Flex Car spending ranges from $0 to $200 a month, since my uses for it have varied incredibly – but do not forget that covers maintenance, gas, insurance, and the car’s depreciation.
Although the commute is now back to around an hour (50 minutes is the best bet, but I get to work at 7:15 instead of 8), I wouldn’t trade it for waiting in rush hour traffic. You can’t read a book while waiting for the stop and go to cease. You can’t let your mind wander at a red light that’s about to turn green. You can’t ponder effectively the days upcoming events while paying attention to other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
The more I slow down my transportation, the more I notice which new store is coming up, which one left, the garter snake scurrying out of my way, and the many slugs Portland has to offer and other bugs you must step around. Don’t forget the beautiful flowers I now have time to stop and smell. I step outside of my reclusive box everyday to familiarize myself with strangers on public transit with all of its glory – the smiling bus drivers to that odd urine smell. I won’t trade that for rush hour and an air conditioned cage.