C-tran Skips, MAX Yellow Line Rocks, C-tran Catches

I left work today with a mission to achieve.  Get to Vancouver, somewhere near where the parents live, during rush hour.  C-tran has all sorts of express buses and such running during rush hour, almost all of them get nowhere near where I need to go.  Vancouver is one of the most pedestrian UNFRIENDLY cities in America, which is ironic, because it is right next to Portland, Oregon.  The #4 Fourth Plain C-tran bus however does go a little closer, within about 1-2 miles of where they live, which kind of gets me closer, and there is the #25 which gets me to within a 20 minute walk (3/4 mile) but is not very frequent at all.

I stepped out of the door at work and headed down to 5th and Stark where the #105 express bus goes by.  My intention was to catch that to the 99th transit center and then take the #25 down as close as I could get.  The #105 has about 3-4 frequencies during rush hour, so I figured it would be fairly easy to catch.  I went down and looked for the stop, which was nowhere to be found.  Slightly frustrated I watched as the #105 poked by heading EAST on Stark (not even on 5th?!?!).  Being one that doesn’t beg or run for transit, I let it poke along since there was no clearly marked place to get on this bus.

At this point, all I had to say is #fail C-tran.  Great job at NOT picking up your prospective riders where you have written you will pick them up at.  #fail #fail #fail #fail #fail

Off I went to determine my next location to jump on the bus then or take the MAX Yellow Line to catch something.  I reviewed my logistical options and decided on a MAX Yellow Line run out to Vanport/Delta Park to jump on the #4.  As I walked up to the Pioneer Square South stop a MAX Yellow Line arrived bound for its northern run.  I boarded and took a plunk down in a seat.  The air conditioning was working its magic as I pulled the laptop out to enjoy the ride.  A few dozen lines of code and unit tests later I arrived at Vanport/Delta Park.

As always the #4 was sitting there patiently waiting for a load of passengers to disembark.  16 passengers got off the MAX and boarded the #4 C-tran.  We departed a few minutes later and pulled into Jantzen Beach where we picked up another 12 people.  With a fairly decent bus load of people, everyone with a seat, we rolled over onto the I-5 Bridge into traffic and across to Vancouver.  Even now at 6:14pm the traffic didn’t seem so bad as to validate an entirely new bridge that would wreck the havoc of a $4.X Billion Dollar price tag.  I’m all for tolling the south bound I-5 routes, but a new bridge just seems absurd when we have so many other things we need done.

The bus pulled around the twisted loops coming off the Interstate into Vancouver and we picked up one more person and dropped off 2.  We cut through Vancouver with a steady stop and go effort, finally pulling out of the slightly urban downtown almost to the routes primary street of Fourth Plain.  Before we got there though another 8 people got off the bus and another 3 got on, one with a bike.  The main bus stop in Vancouver actually had about 8 people waiting for a bus, which is always interesting to see, considering Vancouver doesn’t seem particularly inclined toward transit use.

By the time we got to Fourth Plain we’d stopped for a wheelchair with another 4 people on, 3 people off.  Overall a fair amount of use.  Not bad considering the issues that Vancouver has had with keeping the transit they have going with the funding cuts by voters, now the economic induced cuts, and I’m sure the trouble won’t let up anytime soon.

Eventually my father arrived to transport me via auto to their home.  I got to have a tasty dinner with them and Joleen, enjoyed some conversation afterwards about the economy, general news, and other topics.  My father and I also discussed taking a ride this Sunday (30th) on the new MAX Yellow Line route on the mall alignment.  If anyone else is interested let me know and we’ll meet up for a coffee before or after our loop.

Then it was off the MAX Yellow Line for the trip home.  If C-tran would get their transit tracker going, we’d have jumped on the #25 to get back home, but without it the schedule just isn’t trustworthy.  So we all piled in the Nissan to get a list back to Vanport MAX Station.  After a short 15 minute ride, we arrived to wait for our south bound LRV.  She arrived after a few minutes and we boarded for the trip home.

Another short stretch and we where back downtown.  A short swap to the bus stop and we jumped on the #4 Division/Fessenden Route heading south.  We got off at 20th & Division and took a quick run through the New Seasons to grab some coffee creamer, because, a good trip is always good with a cup of coffee at the end.

Good evening, good trip, good dinner, good night.

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Final BART Agreement Passed by 80%

Now this is Union news I like to hear.  High approval, but acquiesce to the realities of the world.  Fact is, there is less money collected.  One can’t just go to the politicians and say, “hey, raise taxes so we can keep paying our employees”.  The only options are;  a: lay off a bunch of people and maintain pay at threat of reducing fare collection and possibly requiring MORE lay offs in the process or, b: decrease benefits and wages until a time when fares, collections, and other funding returns to their previous levels.

To me, this always seems like an inanely obvious solution, you go with the later.  Simple reason is you don’t want to can people, NOBODY does no matter what the general populations’ opinion of companies is.  Force reductions are at most, a temporary solution to anything in the economic activity of the world, and often times don’t work out in the long run for companies at all.  The most rewarded entities are often those that can keep their workforce, maintain its enthusiasm and moral until heavy workload resumes.

I commend those agencies and ESPECIALLY companies around the country & world that can do this.

So hats off to BART for pulling their act together.  Keep that ridership as high as possible, and don’t give anybody a reason to strike.  Let logic prevail and get the job done.

Sound Transit Making Progress

So I get the photo of the week from Sound Transit and read the RSS feeds.  I must commend Sound Transit on their efforts to really get information out there, it seems, they surpass TriMet in this endeavor.  I also can’t help but feel it is the low key nature of Portland that TriMet gets this from, but should step out and take the lead on these efforts.  As I mentioned previously, it would be awesome if TriMet tried to actively coordinate high ridership needs against opportunities such as shows, sports events, etc.  I suppose they do it some, but I barely see any of it via their website.  This should really change.

However, check out some of these bits from Sound Transit.

Here’s a shot of a Sounder Train arriving.  Just think of all those auto f-tards that say nobody rides the train.  Seriously, you auto nuts, look at that image and say that again?  700 people where on that train!  That’s efficient movement of people.  Each passenger consumed the equivalent  of a Prius stuffed with 4 people – but oh wait, they had the use of space, someone else drove em’, and…  oh hell, the train just kicks driving’s tail.  All of these people can consume alcohol and not have a care in the world, they won’t get arrest for DUI after the game!

Anyway, enough of my ranting on the stupidity of driving and the awesomeness of taking the train, it is however kind of a no brainer in this situation.

In other Sound Transit news, there will be some rocking, head banging trains heading to Tacoma Dome for the AC/DC show coming up.  Of course, this is a no brainer too, because how is somebody going to go to an AC/DC show and not drink?  That’s insane, so jump on the train, have a case o’ beer, and take the train home.  That is THE life of luxury right there.

The last tidbit of Sound Transit news is about their light rail.  It hasn’t hit the ridership level of our Blue Line here in PDX, but it has already surpassed the Yellow Line or Red Line respectively.  At over 12k per day already, and on some days well surpassing that.  This is all without the line not even being 100% done.  The airport extension still has to open later this year, which will easily bump it up another 500-1500 per day.  I do think that Sound Transit will hit their ridership expectations of 29k by middle of 2010 as they’ve suggested.  Which will still have them just shy of our Blue Line, however by the middle of 2011 I’m pretty sure they’ll surpass Blue Line Ridership and start needing those 3 car LRV Trains.  Good thing they’ve planned for that, we’re stuck with 2 car trains in PDX unless we blow billions upgrading the entire system.  I believe, even though I need to check, that Sound Transit has blown past their bus route ridership leaders with the start of the Link Light Rail.

…and my last tidbit of info, or rant more like it is simply a message to Sound Transit, “Fix the damn ticketing on the LINK!!!!”   It is annoying as hell.  Even the local media has picked this up!  I know, I know, it isn’t THAT complicated, but the problem is that it is complicated for any new rider.  Sound Transit & TriMet both have this issue of confusing ticketing.  I’m still one for the “buy a ticket for each ride” because it just can’t get screwed up.

In addition to all this, Seattle is much more of a 24hr city, and in turn, runs their light rail and buses many more hours than PDX (which really isn’t smart form a $$ perspective for TriMet, so I can’t blame em’).

So that is some tidbits that I’ve picked up recently, and I just love that Sound Transit plays with the community this way.  I long for TriMet to reach out a little bit more in this regard.

Soon to come I hope to get the website write up done and published – I’ve got a number of sites to review still.  So stay tuned and keep enjoying the ole’ Transit Sleuth’s work.  🙂

I Walked A Long Way…

Ok, so 2.4 miles isn’t that big of a deal really.  However, I had wanted to take the bus.  The transit tracker application I generally use though was out of commission today.

It got me thinking, I like to always keep moving, I’m stir crazy like that.  In some places I wouldn’t have had the option to walk, because the chance would be the trip would have been 4 miles, or even worse 5-10 miles.  That just isn’t feasible to walk, but with the sprawl that plagues most of the US, that is the exact scenario in trying to get around.

I generally find my use of transit drastically diminished without transit tracker.  Just the simplification it makes bus transfer and such adds tremendous value to using a transit system.  Even when I went to New Jersey, days after they implemented theirs’ for their trains I gained invaluable timing information.

So, what would you do?  If the transit tracker wasn’t working, would you just start walking?  Would you just drive, bike, or go some other way?

Cool Videos by punkrawker4783

punkrawker4783 posted some new videos of the new Green Line runs.  They’re pretty cool, gives one a cab view of the trip.  Check out the videos by just clicking below.  If you want to check his blog out (yeah, it is a good read IMO) navigate over to punkrawker4783.blogspot.com.

Fare Stories, Why I Hated Fareless Square

Ok, I won’t even get into the political and moral reasons of why I hated fareless square.  Instead I’m going to empart some stories about my dealings directly with fareless square and the behaviors it encourages and the disabling effect it has on the city to do anything about these negative behaviors.

An Evening With Lovely Ladies & a Miscreant

I walked out the door toward the 18th & Lovejoy bus & streetcar stop.  Being in the north west area of Portland almost every single area is on the up and up.  There aren’t shady or questionable areas, and I honestly don’t think a serious violent crime has happened in at least 10-20 years in the area.  I arrived at the 18th & Lovejoy stop and looked up at the NextBus Sign to see when a streetcar was coming.  It read 5 minutes & 28 minutes.

The evening was darkening into night and some of the interesting characters that browse around the streets of downtown Portland where starting to come out.  I find most of these individuals intriguing, but am also keenly aware of the things they might do.  Often times they just mingle and rant against each other to each other, making for a bit of vociferous street entertainment of the Jerry Springer kind.

A good while ago, I believe about 12-13 years ago, one of these transient freaks just up and knifed another individual that they didn’t even know.  This of course breaks everything the statistics say about violent crime.  The victim of the attack died, the transient was arrested and also, I believe, later died in jail.  This didn’t happen in north west Portland, but it did happen somewhere in the city, I just don’t recall where.

As I waited for the streetcar the #77 pulled up and I decided spontaneously to head over to Broadway on the east side of the river and catch a drink.  So I boarded and off we went.  The driver, two passengers and I sat quietly with little more than the sound of the bus between us.  One of the passengers was a young pretty lady, maybe in her mid-twenties and the other passenger was a man around his 40s.  Just before fareless square the man got off the bus and headed off toward the Park Blocks area.  Now it was just myself and the young lady sitting a few seats away.  The #77 pulled into the fareless square area and a man boarded.  This man wasn’t entirely gruff, he might have been homeless or just a hard working guy.  He was a bit dirty from whatever he had been doing previously in the day.  After he boarded he sat down right next to the pretty young lady.

As we pulled away the driver stated fareless only went to the Rose Quarter Transit Center, to which he replied curtly “yeah I know”.  So off we went without much fuss.  He sat down and started heckling the girl with offers of intercourse.  What a way to be a freak I thought, wondering if I might need to step this guy into a place of respectful demeanor.  I really wasn’t much in the mood, nor should I have to babysit the miscreant population every time it gets on the bus.  However I really felt for the young lady, she looked to be really uncomfortable with his forwardness and his topic.

The bus pulled into the Rose Quarter Transit Center and started to leave, when the driver piped up that he needed to show his fare now or get off the bus.  The man replied with a terse, “I just need to go up to Lloyd Center”, to which the driver stated, “you can board the MAX under the overpass and it will take you to Lloyd Center via the fareless route, but the bus leaves fareless and I can’t have you onboard without a fare”.  I was impressed by the drivers determination to do the right thing, to take responsibility that so few take responsibility for.  With the attacks on drivers, albeit rare as it is, I am even more impressed and amazed by them taking the bull by the horns and demanding fares in this situation.  Especially when fareless square makes it even more difficult for them to enforce.

I didn’t mention before, but the driver was no large man, nor man at all, but instead a petite woman.  She stood about 6 inches shy of my height, and I’m no tall guy.  So the situation was now laid out like this;  I was toward the rear door of the bus, the pretty young lady was mid-way on the bus on the right hand side, the miscreant was now standing up partially, leaning in the aisle toward the pretty young lady and the petit bus driver was sitting facing the front door, looking back toward this miscreant.

To my amazement the driver stood up and pointed to the door with the words, “either pay or get off the bus”.  I was at this point impressed, but almost concerned as he started to walk toward her.  He then splurted out, now halfway between me, still sitting, and the driver, “I don’t want to get off, just sit down and drive me up to Lloyd Center.”

This is one of the zillion reasons why I hate fareless square.  It perpetuates and encourages, enables this type of behavior.  But I’ll continue with this story so dear readers, you may have closure of the actions that transpired and the Transit Sleuth behaved appropriately to a good sleuth.

Ok, I’ll admit, I misbehaved ever so slightly.  At this miscreants absolutely rude and disrespectful behavior it hit me personally.  I’ll also admit, with a petit lady demanding such a simple thing of this man, I wasn’t, I couldn’t just sit there and let him behave like an ass.  So my southern drawl fell out of my yapper and I stood up and marched forward like a seasoned soldier en route to combat.

I walked up toward the rear of the man, encroaching heavily on his personal space.  He looked immediately unsettled by this drastic change in events.  I don’t think he totally realized I had been sitting in the back of the bus, but now he was very aware of this fact.  I held my hand ready to block any prospective blow, or worse a knife or other weapon he might slash backwards with.  Instead all I got was a turned face with a slight shock on it.

I asked with a clear, calm, stoic voice, “Are you getting off or are you buying fare?”

His tone changed a bit to a tepid voice and asked, “Can’t I just stay on to Lloyd Center?”  I looked at him firmly and said, “The bus driver asked you, stated to you politely before, and now has demanded you respect the fare and pay or get off.”  In my normal flare when ticked off, I continued, “if you are going to disrespect her and the fare, which immediately affects me trying to go out and get a drink, you’ve now obstructed my progress, my quaint bus ride, and I’m pissed so either pay now or get off, you have about 10 seconds before I remove you from the bus.”

The bus driver looked somewhat concerned but relieved that she wasn’t the only one standing between the miscreant man and his removal now.  I stood calmly, prepared still for whatever he might do.  Several seconds passed and we both stood as if a showdown was taking place.  The young pretty girl moved further toward the back of the bus, all while watching quietly.  A couple more seconds and I began in a still, low voice, “fifteen…   ten…  five…”  He looked at me and with an idiots remark stated, “are you counting down to me?”  Almost as if asking, but reactively trying to sound tough.

He failed, and I got to “one.”

I could tell the drive moved back slightl
y as I slowly lurched forward.  He turned toward me and started to speak, to which I stopped him with a curt and simple, “Shutup!”  No longer stoic I think it transitioned him into realization that I was indeed about to remove him from the bus.  I reached up from my slow lurch with intent and speed, grappling his arm, with my thumb pressing harshly against his bicep for grip.  I moved him toward the front door, with him posing a slight opposition to this but not enough to stop my forward movement of him.  I stated as we approached the front door, “You can step down off the bus yourself or I will do it for you, which might not work well.”  He finally piped up, in full realization I was pushing him by the arm off the bus, “Naw man, @#$%, I’ll do it, let go of me.”

His voice had gotten a bit shrill, I could tell his adrenaline had pumped and he had gotten a little shaky.  His fight or flight had initially started as flight by freeze.  He stepped off the bus and started yelling some nonsense at me and the driver about being various vulgar expletives.  The driver immediately closed the door and allowed me to sit down in the front row.

The three of us now pulled away as the miscreant yelled madly from the stop.  I watched as we departed, his yelling began to attract the nearby police & transit security.  He’d now sunk his night for sure.

The driver, once we stopped at the light at MLK turned and said kindly, “thanks for stepping up, that rider is commonly a problem.”  He’s always harassing riders and we often can’t prevent him from boarding because of fareless.  He gets on and then usually refuses to get off.  I told her that I was, “Glad to have been able to help out.” and added, “I’m disgusted by that type of disrespectful behavior.”

As we rolled out and parallel to Broadway I got off near the Rose & Thistle.  As I prepared to get off the bus I said “Thanks” per my usual farewell to the drivers, and turned to the pretty young girl and said, “have a good night, hope you don’t have to deal with any more nonsense like that”.  She smiled, raised her hand to wave bye, and spoke her first word of the entire bus ride, “thanks”.

I got off the bus and walked toward Rose & Thistle thinking about the millions of ways that entire scenario could have been avoided.  I in no way blame TriMet, but solely the bastard for his unacceptable behavior.  I however would have been very happy if the system would have discouraged his boarding in the first place.  Because if it had, the driver would have been able to prevent his boarding in the first place and never had to face down the sorry fool.  The man is to blame, but the system can fix the entire problem.

Bus Driver Rant

As I boarded the #9 during rush hour I scanned to see if I could grab a seat.  I saw one there in the rear.  I bee-lined it and made it just as others where starting to board.  We had two more stops in fareless square and then would be on the snake turns before the Ross Island Bridge.  One guy pushed away from me and kind of slunk down in the corner rear seat.  I looked at him and noticed he was attempting to avoid eye contact with the driver.

As we arrived at the last stop in fare-less the driver stopped the bus, put it in park, and got up.  He walked straight back toward the back, stopping just shy of the back door.  He pointed at this guy and a few other people and said, “you, you, and you either pay the fare or get off the bus.  I saw you get on in fare-less and know you didn’t pay”  This event I wrote about the day it happened in my entry TriMet Bus Driver Fitting of Respect.  The little brat of a kid, got up and left the bus.  The other two showed or bought fare.  I was seriously impressed.

Even though this was mighty respectable of the driver, the fact he had to do this was again a problem inherent in fare-less square.  We all had to wait another minute or so while these brat kids where kicked off the bus or made honest.  Again, I don’t blame the driver or even TriMet, but the kids for being dishonest, but something that can be remedied for everyone involved by removing fare-less.  It makes it easier for the drivers, and quicker for the passengers.

Maths

The last point of why I hated fare-less was for a simple math reason.  TriMet, Metro, the city, and a few other entities have estimated about $900k dollars of fares are not collected each year because of fare-less square.  When one digs into the math they’ll find that this is absolutely not the entirety.  The actual amount of fares not collected is very likely higher than $900k.  However, I’ll use this low number.

$900k gets us at least a couple frequencies of bus service.  Or it could get us a few more MAX trains operating during rush hour.  It could provide us enough to buy 2 new buses per year, the lease payments on a new MAX, or part of a streetcar.  $900k could go toward helping the system to expand, instead of perpetuating scenarios like those above.

If someone really digs down and checks out the math, fare-less would also enable appropriate enforcement and more police interaction onboard the buses.  Currently with fare-less they aren’t enabled to do so, with a fare in place they have a legal reason to initiate conversation.  Most of the officers when engaging in conversation with prospective thugs, ghetto, kids, and other sorts actually prevent negative activities that otherwise would harass, harm, or otherwise denigrate the downtown experience for people.  Most of these miscreants that come downtown and do nothing but cause trouble (such as the stabbing 3-4 days ago at Pioneer Courthouse Square) do so based on fare-less square.  Now the police need to stupid sit-lie law to keep these trouble makers in line.  Simply seeing them disembark from transit, without fare via the buses could land them in hot water.  Removing the ability for them to return home in the after hours also prevents them from coming down to cause trouble in the first place.

In Summary

All in all, it is one more tool that can be used to clean up downtown and prevent troublemakers from harassing honest, decent people living an urban lifestyle.  Sure there will still be miscreants and trouble makers, but they’ll have less leverage to harass the urbanites.  In addition the police can now focus a little more on where most of these troublemakers come from, the distant burbs of Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, and other such places.  Maybe, just maybe we can keep em’ near their homes and those respective places can keep up with their own problems.

We have enough homeless & other issues we need to deal with downtown, we don’t need the burbs’ punkers, miscreants, and other annoyances troubling us also.

So all in all, peace out, enjoy the ride, and know that the Transit Sleuth has your back.  On a lighter note, I can provide useful information and tips n’ tricks on using the transit system.  😉

Freeloaders Unwanted, Please, Go Away, K Thx Bye

http://trimet.org/news/farelesschange.htm

TriMet has officially nipped all fareless square buses in the bud.  Start January of 2010 there is no more fareless square as we know it.  Only rail (which I’d rather it have gone paid only also) will be fareless.  I suspect this will generate a few extra million per year (contrary to the absurd claims it would only recoup about 900k) and will also prove that the riders of fareless square aren’t what some have said they are.

I for one, say good riddance, maybe those downtown can pick up taking transit without as much fear of the transients, bums, and ghetto kiddies wondering aimlessly around harassing riders.

…well, maybe.  But either way, good riddance.