Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Research: Part II

So after coming home at 1:15 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday I did what you probably will think is certifiably asinine.

I got up at 7:30 and took the light rail downtown in the rain during the middle of rush hour.

One of my main problems with New York is my commute. It is exhausting, it is unpleasant, it is a waste of time, and often it is downright infuriating. The delays, the service changes, the all-local weekends, forced transfers, rats the size of Patsy Cline, the garbled announcements, the "shuttles," the smells, the temperature (from freezing to 120 degrees), the strikes, and, let's not forget, the passengers. Underground social Darwinism: survival of the rudest.

Last week I discovered that two and a half hours is not enough time to go home from work, feed the cats, put on a clean shirt and make it back to midtown to meet a friend for a drink. No wonder most of the time when I get home at night, I stay there.

This morning I was eager to be hypercritical; I needed to be sure that I wasn't seeing Portland through rose-colored glasses. Sure enough, as I waited on a bench under a covered area at the Sunset Transit Center in the drizzle, I spied a piece of litter on the platform. "See," I said to myself, "it's no different than New York." No sooner had I thunk that thought when a man in an orange vest came by and picked up the litter. I couldn't find any rats, but there were some squirrels in the nearby trees.

When the train came, there were empty seats. There was no graffiti. No one asked me for money. No one attempted to perform an acrobatic routine in the aisle. There aren't any turnstiles or meat grinders to navigate. No one held the doors. The trip took 15 minutes.

Arriving at Pioneer Courthouse Square, I immediately headed for the busiest, most centralized Starbucks in town. There was one person in line ahead of me.

"Excuse me," I said to the cashier, "I know it's two days before Thanksgiving, and a lot of people are probably off, but how does this compare to your normal morning rush?" She looked around and said, "Well, yeah, there's usually a few more people here, but this is pretty typical." There were empty tables. Clean empty tables, I might add.

Toto, I don't think we're on Wall Street anymore. And I don't think we'll be going back very much longer.


kr said...


In the interest of full disclosure (boring to anyone not considering a move out here):

The lightrail (and all public transpo) is much fuller when it's sunny instead of raining (waiting for the connector buses kills the experience) ... well, and anytime there is a big event at the Rose Garden Arena. You'll also find more seats on the Red line (which starts in Beaverton) than the Blue line (which starts in Hillsboro and is patronized, often to capacity, at all hours).

Downtown Starbucks is busier for second-coffees, probably starting at 10 or 11 ... it's the suburban Starbucks that have lines in the morning, so people can suck down the caffeine while they try not to kill each other on the highways. (Thinking there would be any business downtown before 10--psssh! You really have been in NY too long ;)! )

TriMet is just starting to tear up the Bus Mall to (very expensively and somewhat inexplicably) route a north-south lightrail through downtown (instead of keeping it all on the east side of the river, where it starts and will eventually end--???). Now, I've heard they are declaring a construction moratorium for the holiday shopping season, which is enlightened of them and "very Portland," but all types of downtown travel will in involve rerouting, shuttles, and various other problems through 2008, at least if you go east of 7th. I have more details if you want, but I'm sure the national audience doesn't give a rip ;).

On the looking-up side, the Eastside lightrail is much less pleasant, and the downtown westbound stations have insufficient rain-cover (since they weren't designed for waiting), but both of those sets of problems are in final planning stages for mitigation if not fixing. (Some of the Eastside stops probably aren't fixable.)

[ Sorry I won't be seeing you tonight-- kids + hot pans = bad restaurant experience ;). Have goodtime suburban fun, though ;). ]

Jade said...

Portland through rose-colored glasses! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Hee hee... (For those who don't know... Portland is the "Rose City", so that's why I find it funny)

Empty seats? Wow!

I used to commute using MAX - truth be told it was a short commute (185th to Tektronix) but it did take a while as I had to get the timing right for a bus to take me to the MAX station, then ride MAX from there. I rode during high commute time and it was always pretty crowded, although I don't remember having to stand very often, if at all. If you end up with a car and just use the MAX to get downtown you would have greater flexibility as you can drive to a park & ride and glide into Portland regardless of any traffic on 26. Hell, you could move out to Bend and still have a shorter commute than you do now! (And, assuming you'd want to live around the Beaverton side of things, you could always find a job in town.. although I could see you living in the Pearl district rather happily)

But yeah, you aren't going to really find all that many "crazies" on the MAX train - that must have been quite a culture shock for you!

Portland would probably be a better "back to The West" transition for you because you know the area and family can help you get established. We picked Seattle not only for the larger size of the city, but because there are better work opportunities up here for Dan's business, so that had a lot to do with it (plus... all of my family is in Portland too, so a 3 hour buffer is nice). I don't know what the job market is like in Portland these days, or what sort of job you might be looking for. You might want to poke around at or something and see what is out there.

Jade said...

Oh PS... if you venture up to the Seattle area let me know & I'll take you out for a GOOD cup of coffee (not that Starbucks sludge) *grin*

Hot Toddy said...

How long are you here? I sent you an e-mail offering to show you my hangout spot :)

Anonymous said...

seems to me your mind is made up.
do it.

Andy said...

KR and Jade and anyone else local: yes, please share Max horror stories. No, really. I mean, I do plan (*if* I move out here) to get a car, but if I were to work downtown, I'd definitely be more interested in commuting using Tri-Met. But I want to know how often service gets disrupted, etc.

Jade said...

I don't have any horror stories... the worst part for me with the train was just that the bus schedule was not as frequent as the train, so if I missed a train by 5 minutes I could catch the next one in 5 minutes, but I would miss my connecting bus and have to sit at the transit center for 30 minutes waiting for the bus, or walk for 20 minutes to get back to my apartment. It would have been much more convenient to ride my bike to the transit station and take it with me on the MAX, but I couldn't because I was riding during the busiest commute times, and the bike area had to be flipped down to offer more seats. Again, if you have a car and drive to a transit station to commute over 26 from there then neither one of those situations is a problem.

The only recollection I had of service disruptions was the rare occasion that there was an accident, or there was an ice storm (in which case most everyone was staying home from work anyway) If there's going to be construction like KR says then stuff will be mushed up during that time. I'll write to Kirstin & see if she has any horror stories, she still lives in the area and uses Trimet.

Jade said...

Not trying to dominate the conversation, I swear! I just talked to Kirstin - her husband rode the MAX downtown daily for work for about 8 months (only stopped because his job changed and required him to drive between locations during the day) Her story is "Portland can be a little weird... there was one time where a lady was being harassed by a car driving by, so [husband] offered to walk with her until the car drove away... and there was one time where a guy was randomly acting like he was going to hit people just to see if they would flinch" Knowing the stories I've read of the NY Subway, I laughed at the notion that this was considered "a little weird". The only thing she could think of with regards to the trains themselves was that one time a guy tried to snatch a kid (about 2 years old) when the mom wasn't looking, but 4 passengers tackled him before he even got near the doors.

Andy said...

I'm well aware that Portland has more than its fair share of weirdos. That can't be helped. But I find that in general, Oregonians are so polite and aware of other people around them. Less than weirdo-horror stories, I'm curious about the general reliability of Max. I mean, is it one of those things where you're late to work once a week because the train didn't come? Does it ever just not run? Even so, I expect it would be less of a problem because I intend to have a car, and would always have an alternate mode of getting around. I would ride Max just to be socially and environmentally responsible. In New York, I have no option other than the A train.

K-Lyn said...

I took tri-met downtown from Cedar Hills to downtown for about 4 years. The first year was glorious. I had a bus that picked up accross the street from my apartment complex within 4 minutes of its schedule and dropped me off right in front of my building on 6th and Main. Rain, Shine, maybe not snow but still. All was well.

Then the mex came. Then I was forced to drive 1/4 of a mile (because it was not safe to walk to the Sunset sidewalks and speeding cars), park my car in the often full structure, and wait for the Max that did come every ten minutes but I never knew WHICH 10 minutes. The schedule was apparently more of a suggestion although I've been told that has been fixed.

Then, because it was the last pickup before downtown (zoo doesn't count in rush hour) I never got a seat. This was back when I had to wear heels and it really bugged me. Then I had to walk a few blocks to my building.

On the way home, getting on at the square I still never got a seat and the proximity changed for the worse. We all got to endure the aromas of the stree kids that were taking it to the end of fareless square. But it was at least a short 15 min or so ride.

I could try to make this a rant but, with your horror stories, I can't. I really missed my bus. I had made friends on it even. But since the busses are no longer an option to be compared...the max is great. I love Portland. Other than occasionnally driving in to work because I couldn't park at the station or the ice stopping the trains there really wasn't a problem. There are Portland crazies but they just don't compare...

But, as KR stated, the bus mall project is going to suck. Now I work between 4th and 5th on Taylor. My life will be a living hell.

And don't get me started on the OHSU tram project.

kr said...

All the MAXes run more or less every 15 minutes every day fromlike 4 AM to 1:30 AM or something; you can check out

Jade is right, otehr than accidents and our FREAK ice storm (2005?), they don't stop. Accidents most common on the far eastern edges, where the line runs one the street where low-income new arrivals drive. The newer lines are better thought-out and protected.

Oh, about twice a year someone gets run over; that stops that train and blocks the tracks.

I've never heard a customer who had to use a shuttle-bus around an accident who was satisfied with the service; for some reason (possibly because it doesn't happen to often?) Trimet just can't get that together.

On the other hand, the only accident I've ever heard of between the Beaverton Transit Center and downtown was the day after the line opened, when some guy somehow drove (accidentally!) straight of the hwy ramps and landed smack in the middle of both tracks. It was like a movie! But there just isn't anywhere to get a car onto the tracks there (barring such acrobatics), so that part of the trip would be safe from disruption barring the Big One (the Portland Hills Fault finally cracking).

Dude, that kid-snatching Jade mentions: scary stuff. The dude had voices in his head telling him to grab that kid and throw her in front of the train ... but yes, this is Portland, and he was So Tackled (kid fine, albeit a bit freaked) ... the biggest guy sat on him until the police got there (it was downtown, so it took like two minutes because like seven people had celled 911).

Which incident sparked an interesting article last summer (?) in the Oregonian, about how Portlanders generally assume they should Do Something if they can in a threat situation ... like the folks who chased a guy with a bloody knife--and took him down--after he knifed a woman in the zoo parking lot when she wouldn't allow herself to be abducted. (Another traumatized two year old : P. )

Not that that sort of thing is normal, of course ;).

Crime maps and other cool stuff:
(I see that they've backed off on the airial photos ... you used to be able to see distinct cars ... )

Article Sunday on internet city-networking, for people deciding to move:

From that article:, the website of realtor Susan Marthens; it sounds so comprehesive that I am thinking of using it to look for neighborhoods for our next move

Anonymous said...

You know, you should really look into Spokane. I hear it's turning into some kind of gay Mecca.

But seriously, folks, Cascadia rocks and I'm so glad to be back.

Anonymous said...

ps. I did bus commutes back in the day for about 5 summers and it was easy. I do MAX periodically now, to get to the "big city" library. Reliable and never smelly.

belledame222 said...

>rats the size of Patsy Cline


and they sing "Crazy" in those hingey little voices, and it's all just a -bit- too much on a late night coming home...