Willamette Week reporter Aaron Mesh recently took an extended TriMet voyage to survey the types of Portland residents who use it and how changes to the service affect them. Based on the article, it seems maybe he hasn’t spent much time on TriMet other than for his three-day assignment. Three days (242 miles) is a lot of travel time, but I can’t get over how negative the majority of the riders in the piece are. Sure, I’ve heard grousing on buses and while waiting for them to arrive, but it’s not been remarkable.
My take on the efficiency of TriMet comes from having incorporated Los Angeles’ Metro into my car-free transportation options, usually as a last resort. From its transfer-lacking buses to its limited rail system, L.A.’s public transportation offerings are kind of a joke compared to those of other large cities. But it’s the size of the metro area that makes it so. It is still much easier to travel by bus and train in Portland, even if it is experiencing an outward “creep.” Portland is spoiled with how much ground TriMet covers, but apparently ridership has eroded with the service cutbacks and fare increases. (What I want to know is what are the other modes of transportation people choose when they abandon TriMet? I wonder if carpooling will rise after September if the TriMet board approves the fare increase/service cutback.)
So, the perspective is important. Coming from a city with lackluster public transit makes a person really appreciate TriMet. The proposed fare increases will be annoying for those who can afford it and rough for people who are scraping by. But it’s still just complaining about pocket change. Consider the woman Mesh spoke to who came to the States as a refugee and who probably knows a thing or two about inconvenience.
“I have so many more opportunities here,” she says after we board the No. 12 heading east. “In America, everyone is equal. Everybody gets a chance.”
How’s that for perspective?