Stuck on the bus

Moving to Portland was partially to get out of a town I really really really despise, and partially to get to live in a place with an extensive public transportation system. I grew up in California, between the south SF bay area and a town north of Sacramento. As the time I spent there was all pre-driver’s license, I relied heavily on the public transportation there, which in the bay area (at least at the time) was awesome, but was severely lacking 100mi north. VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority) hours were long, the waiting time was little, and I felt safe on the bus and lightrail (in San Jose). One thing about the busses down there was that they were dirty – kids were always putting gum on the backs of seats and most of the windows had become translucent due to the myriad of scratches that had built up over years of wee taggers satiating their need to mark yet another solid with his/her scribble, as well as any other surface.

TriMet vehicles tend to be really clean and comfortable to ride. Sure, there have been a couple of late-night puking sessions on the MAX (not me, thankyouverymuch), those who don’t shower, and once in a while the bus and even the MAX get to capacity, but for the most part, our public transportation is great. The only big problem I have with TriMet currently is the sometimes missing busses (walked a full 2 miles along my path before the 71 went zooming by one day), and the damned machines that never work (but I have a monthly pass, so that’s moot to me for the most part). What do you love/hate about TriMet? Do you actually send requests into their “comment” lines? I might be notorious for letting them know at least once a week that the machine they’ve never fixed at the 60th Ave MAX stop is indeed still broken…

7 Comments so far

  1. jcrawford on May 5th, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

    On the pros, TriMet vehicles are very clean and comfortable. They also try hard to accommodate bicyclists. The operators are also very friendly in the majority of cases. They’re also (and this is a big one for a geek like me) technologically progressive, providing a feature-rich API that allows developers to easily write software that reads data from the bus schedules. They also adopted the Google Transit Feed Specification (a format for specifying schedules used by Google Maps) pretty early on. They’re making a lot of developments in in-vehicle technology right now, with the Automated Stop Announcement starting to work in buses.

    and, of course, the Cons: I think it would be great to get some of the 60ft articulated buses (although I know it’s hard to find a company that makes them, and they’re expensive to maintain) to relieve the packed buses during rush hour, because some of the lines get really crowded. Also, some drivers get overly stressed out when behind schedule, and it degrades the experience for passengers.

    Overall though, I definitely think TriMet operates one of, if not THE, world’s best mass transit systems.

  2. spoken on May 5th, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

    I unabashedly love Trimet. I do sometimes complain about the perpetually broken ticket machines at the max stops (I’m lookin’ at you, Yamhill Station) or the idiosyncratic nature of my fellow passengers but for the most part I wouldn’t change a thing about it. And I have *never* felt threatened riding.

  3. clackablog on May 5th, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

    I actually created an eGroup to log and track TriMet complaints, and ran it for years after Yahoo! assimilated eGroups. I think the introduction of GPS has helped, and set up my cellphone with the bus-tracking web addresses for every common bus stop I used.

    That being said, IMHO Tri-Met’s stubborn refusal to honestly consider dedicated=lane, dedicated-platform express buses as an alternative to heavy rail ticks me off. Curitiba Brazil found their express bus system cost them 0.7% of what an equivalent rail system would… made the cover of Scientific American, no less. With a dedicated lane, you can have a very smooth ride, not jouncy like ordinary buses, and buidling a hundred-year road is far, far cheaper than railbed.

  4. matt on May 6th, 2008 @ 12:52 am

    I have enjoyed having MAX close at hand and have used it several times since moving here. As a person who used public transit well into his 20s, it is wonderful to see such a large system with frequent trains. I haven’t yet tried the bus.

    I *have*, however, driven alongside the buses, and I’ve got to say I am still in shock that near-corner bus stops are used up here. I’ve had a few near-misses vs. Trimet drivers in the right-turn-only lane who assert their apparent right to drive straight, despite all logic and common sense to the contrary. I’ve seen signs at one or two intersections leading me to believe this is considered normal and sanctioned, but c’mon! That’s just nuttier than a Payday. I don’t understand why the stops aren’t always on the far corner.

    @clackablog have you seen Eugene’s bus-based rapid transit? I just saw a mention of it on a site I saw today. Is that the sort of thing you’re talking about? Link

  5. sadielarue on May 6th, 2008 @ 11:29 am

    I unabashedly hate TriMet even though I have to use it every day. I do not use the MAX because it doesn’t go where I need to go; I have to depend on buses that are always dirty and smelly, are never on time, have surly drivers (and in some cases psycho drivers). My bus line, although it serves an inner neighborhood, only runs every half hour and sometimes every hour as one bus will almost inevitably break down somewhere on the route. Even though each trip is consistently overcrowded and more and more "affordable housing" is being built along the route Tri-Met has not made any effort to improve, read add more buses, service. A long time ago I stopped sending comments because all you get is a canned reply and no action. Perhaps more than 30 years of riding the bus has jaded me a little.

  6. Engine of Thought (engineofthought) on May 6th, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

    I think the above posters have pretty well covered the wonders and woes of Tri-Met. I would have to say that my favorite part of Tri-Met is its policy of stopping buses anywhere after 8PM or dark. Granted, as a really tall, really big man, I’m not particularly worried about anything happening, but when it’s raining, the buses willingness to drop me off in front of my house, instead of five blocks down the street, is an incredible boon.

  7. Erica (helloerica) on May 18th, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    The problems TriMet has are minor compared to other city’s public transportation systems.

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