More Bus Service Reductions

I knew there would probably be more, it isn’t like people are actually becoming re-employed.  Most of the people who pay the taxes (i.e. upper incomes) that actually pay the bulk of TriMet’s costs haven’t increased employment in the area either.  So no matter what way one looks at things, more cuts are coming.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I saw this list of frequency cuts.  But at the same time I wanted to know when this list came up.  Rightfully they haven’t cut any rush hour services on these routes, but even these off hours seem like they’re really starting to stretch for areas to cuts.  I know also that MAX isn’t in this round of cuts, and rightfully so as it is cheap to operate compared to buses.  Going car-less and moving back downtown is definitely going to help cope with these cuts, as I will barely need transit for anything really, but it is getting kind of awkward.

It seems TriMet needs to get a grip on things and maybe start cutting something besides actual transit service.

$1.8 Billion for ALMOST 10k jobs (re: Oregonian)

That pans out to $180,000 dollars per job – WTF?!  I doubt many of those are economically sustainable, useful, or even needed.  The bailouts are extending our uselessness as a nation and perpetuating our inability to generate actual wealth (i.e. create something vs. just shift money around).  These types of numbers, also not surprising, are still unsettling no matter how prepared I am for them.

As Oregon has blown through $1.8 Billion, and gotten dozens of millions for random work around the transit system, the state can’t seem to manage to get a measly $23-26 million to TriMet to stave off these service reductions.  Yo, politicians WTF are you doing?  You guys break laws and distort all sorts of legal lines to push money into less legitimate things than transit all the time.  Get on the ball and get the buses moving again – at least on the frequent service lines.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today.  Go have fun on Halloween…  because I’m just loitering about and observing the mayhem!  : )

Car-free Confusion

It has only been a week with no car.  I’ve had ZERO issues getting to anywhere in Portland I need to be at, on time, by schedule, or whatever.  Neither has Jo.  We have travelled literally 10+ miles from downtown, still no problem.

Even though we have zero issues getting around almost (not everyone) every auto dependent person asks when we are planning to go somewhere, “do you need a ride?”  Not in a “I’m going do you need a ride” but a “Oh dear you don’t have a car and maybe I should provide a hand out”.  No, we don’t need a ride.  We will find out where we are meeting and we’ll probably be there before you, with your car.

So far in the car free life that has been our number one retort we’ve received since it has become official.  Jo & I have been somewhat amazed by it.  As if somehow, because we had a car before, but went everywhere on transit, bike, or walking it made us more capable of getting somewhere.  It didn’t, we never used it, it didn’t matter.  So what is different now?  I think the biggest thing is the mental hurdle, especially for most Americans, to get over the fact that someone can live a fully productive, entertaining, honest, involved life without a car.

What Else Has Changed?

That last stop gap attempt to hurry somewhere.  Before with the car, if a bus was late I didn’t pay much attention.  For some reason now, when a bus is late I actively think about the fact that if it is late, I don’t have an alternative.  Partly that is my fault, I’ve been procrastinating getting a good commuter bike for months.  But the fact there is no car to fall back on really makes me think about that.  It makes me think that a weaker and less organized individual would easily fall into the trap of relying on a car for things that are absurdly unnecessary.  Which of course, is exactly what America has become in this context.

Why Did I do it?  Why Did We do it?

Jo has kept a simple life for years.  Not wanting the headache or annoyance of a car.  She had her head on straight long before we met.  I also had the idea, but was flung into working in areas that had horrible options.  We finally moved out to Portland in 05’.  For me I was returning, for Jo it was a new city.  Within 6 months there was no way she’d ever want to leave again, and here we are years later and we have no intention of leaving.  Portland by far is one of the greatest city’s in this country.  Only the largest of cities can even give it a run for its money; Chicago, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, and there may be one or two more I’ve missed.

When we moved up here, Jo had been car-free for a year or two already.  Even in auto-dependent Jacksonville, Florida she was car-free.  With our arrival we went immediately into a functional car-free existence.  The car I had, a Nissan Altima w/ V6, got parked in a lot and moved about once a week.  I never really used it more than that.  For a time I did use it in conjunction with the MAX for part of my commute.  It helped me get that last 2 miles, and transit covered the other 8+ miles.  Eventually I figured out where I was going and that there was a bus line, and even that usage stopped.

All this time, from the Altima to the 350Z I was following the traditional American approach of paying a car note.  In addition I have somewhat unsightly insurance.  Those costs kept adding up and it got to a point that it didn’t really make sense to have a car sitting there that was costing me so much money.  So the decision was made, that we’d sell it.  No need to watch the car sit there and look pretty in the parking lot.  So with barely any miles on a 3 year old car we sold the Daytona Blue Nissan 350Z.

I thought I loved her, but was glad to see her go.

Jo and I are on the end of our first week without a car.  We rarely think about the fact, as it isn’t really important.  We’re doing all sorts of positive things by not having a car, but there is a more important factor here.  We’re living a more complete, simplified, easier to live, less complicated life than most Americans.  Not just a little, but by a large degree.  I’m finding more and more, as is Jo by our complete car-free lifestyle, that cars actually complicate and make life more difficult.  The novelty is slowly wearing off for millions of people in America.  I hope it isn’t too late to reverse some of the damage the change in infrastructure and political perversions to support the automobile have wrought.  It would be a grand thing for more Americans to clean up their act.  I don’t say that in an environmental sense, that’s just an extra benefit.  I’m speaking in the sense of life itself.

Well we’re off to breakfast, and a treasure hunt of modeling supplies, without a car.  So enjoy the day, cheers!

Officially Carfree

No more payments, no more oil changes, no more maintenance, no more worrying, no more wrecks, no more headache.  Total logistical freedom (yeah, feel free to argue that point with me, “I’ll pwn U” – as they say on the Internets).

Today I officially signed the title of the 2006 Nissan 350Z over to the knew owners.  May they have awesome fun with the rad little car that it is.  As for me, I just gained so much I can’t even fathom yet.

This selling of the car, has moved me from a mere transit advocate and anti-auto dependency market advocate, but now I am firmly planted 100% in that realm.  It will be an interesting place for a mostly Libertarian person as myself, who believe in the inviolate individual and property rights.  Being that transit has become the stomping grounds of so many socialists, pro-Government control advocates, it shall be an interesting discussion when that is brought up.

Anyway, any entries from hence forth will of course include my slightly altered new reality.  Being without a car may just change my mind a bit about certain things – or not.  I often have a very clear view of the world, politics, and other such things (I believe along with many people telling me the same thing, so it isn’t just my word).  So now I ponder will my perspective change much.

Anyway, it is Friday and I’m rambling through a partial blog entry.  I’m heading off to do something, not sure what, but it will definitely not be in a car!  : )

Flights, Thief River Falls, and Minneapolis

NOTE:  This entry I originally wrote and neglected to post a couple months ago.  Since I had written a substantial entry, I couldn't just leave it unpublished – so here it is available as a completely random post.

Round 1:  Destination Thief River Falls, Minnesota

I travelled to Thief River Falls, MN recently via a selection of transport modes.  I’m here on business, but that’s irrelevant to Transit Sleuth readers, but there are some other points that are relevant.

First I left the house via automobile, for the prime reason no buses run early enough to deposit me somewhere to ride the MAX Red Line to the airport.  Jo rode with me to return with the car to its parking spot where it shall sit for another dozen or more days.  We left at 4:35am heading east on Powell, turned onto I-205 north.  After a few minutes we exited the Interstate at Glisan to park at the Park & Ride at Gateway Transit Center.

After a few minutes, the next MAX Red Line arrived exactly on time, Jo and I boarded, and off we went toward the airport.  After the short 10 or so minute ride we detrained and headed into the concourse.  I picked up my flight tickets and we headed off for some grub in the main commercial area of the concourse.

We bid farewell for the trip and I struck into security with the blank stair of a downtrodden and beaten dog.  Every American should walk into the security lines of the TSA this way, because really, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE for allowing this $8 Billion a year travesty.  It isn’t security, it’s a “customer service organization”!  I’ve seen it on TSA memos so it MUST be true!  Anyway – I’m sure you can tell I am NOT a fan of the TSA.  It’s a waste of billions, and does NOTHING more than the security did that existed before that didn’t cost a single taxpayer penny.

After I made it through the deluge of security idiocy and dehumanization I went and camped out at the terminal the plane would depart from.  After a while we started boarding in preparation for departure.  I got onto the plane in my normal way, with precision and stowed my carry on luggage.  I immediately sat down and attempted to stay out of the way.  Of course, everyone else isn’t like me and could give a crap whether they slam EVERY bag they have into me.  So I sat there in my aisle seat attempting to not get smacked in the face.  In the end I was hit 6 times; 2 to the side of the head, 3 slammed into my arm as I blocked their clumsiness, 1 by a babies foot and the bag the individual carried as she turned to apologize, and 1 more time by some drudge of an idiot just plundering through and hitting everyone on their trip to the back of the plane.

Still in one piece, boarding completed, and off we went.

…or well, so that was the plan.  We pulled away from the terminal air-way and sat for 20 minutes because some luggage guy left some of the cargo netting hanging out of a bay area.  After waiting 19 minutes for someone to come back and fix it, someone appeared and stowed the cargo net in the cargo bay.  Now we finally, after this show of blundering, we where off.

The flight was ok, fortunately it was a big plane.  The 757-200 lumbered through the air with a Cadillac’s ride; smooth yet clumsy.  We started our approach after the few hours of transit, and landed at Minneapolis about 25-30 minutes late!  Weeehooo!  Late planes rock!

I deplaned and met up with my coworker Gary, which we then snagged a Quiznos in one of the airport restaurants.  After that short bite we went and waited for the arrival of our next plane, which would take us to Grand Forks, North Dakota.

We made the flight and headed to Grand Forks.  After the short flight we arrived, amazingly about 10 minutes early.  So overall, we arrived at this point early.  Gary got our car which he would drive to our final destination of Thief River Falls, Minnesota.  We piled into the Toyota Camry and smoothly rolled along the highway clearing mileage at around 65 mph.  We arrived, found our place of residence for the rest of the week and grabbed some food.

Round 2:  Destination Portland, Oregon

We departed Thief River Falls and travelled to Grand Forks to board the 8:10am departure to Minneapolis.  We arrived, Gary turned in the rental car, and we boarded the plane.  A quick flight, and as we landed I jarred awake.  I had fallen asleep for the entire flight and I wasn’t complaining.

After some quick flight research, my gate was F13 for the Minneapolis to Portland leg of the trip.  But before I continue the travelling narrative I really have to add some props for Portland.

There are people, and they seem to be a small number but have grown loud lately, that incessantly complain about Portland.  Most of these people don’t seem to do a real apples to apples comparison of Portland to other cities nor take the current issues here in Portland in context of other cities.  Among all those complaints though, Portland has some awesome amenities compared to…   well I’d say about every single city in the United States.

Where do I start?  I arrived in Minneapolis, and after two days of zero amenities I was glad to be back in civilization.  The first thing I did was get a cup of coffee, from Caribou Coffee.  I don’t want to complain, it was a good cup of coffee, but it by no means is a really good cup of coffee like one expects in Portland.  As I sat with my cappuccino pondering this wire-less the Minneapolis Airport has I was guessing on 5-10 bucks for the day.  Portland’s of course is free.  I got connected and sure enough, one hour is a bloody freaking $4.95!  So much for being business friendly.  I’m all for charging, but they ought to just put a surcharge on the airport fees or something.  It’s just too much mess to be required to dump out $4.95 AFTER I’ve already gone through a dozen different charges and other mess in an airport.

Anyway, a good flight home.  A short ride on the Red Line MAX back into downtown Portland and into the Office.  From there I did a few hours of catch up and then jumped back on the bus for the trip home.  After a short #9 run across the Ross Island Bridge I arrived home.  Overall a good trip, a rare trip, but one for the books.

One major thing, I'm very happy to be back in ole’ PDX.

Officially Going Car Free?

Well, it seems odd that I have to sell a car to someone for me to go car-free.  I'd rather help someone else go car free.  But here's the skinny.  Jo & I are tired of spending money on a car that sits and is unused, especially one of a caliber of a 350Z.  A car that should be at the track or be being enjoyed, which I just don't do anymore.  So I'm selling it.  She's a 2006 Model, V6 (VQ35DE if you want to look up the engine type), 300+ hp, with less than 15k miles.  Oh yeah, it is also a REAL sports car with a stick, none of that automatic nonsense.

Why are Jo & I doing this?  Simple.  Now that we're out of the auto-dependant life, we've really realized the excess expenditures, energy, and time we had to spend to just keep the car (mainly my insurance costs & the car just cost a monthly note is all, mechanically it is flawless).  So if you know anyone that wants a SUPER enjoyable car I have one for sale.  In addition, I'll sell it for blue book or less easily.  First to offer is first to get her, I'm not waiting around.

So if you know anyone give me a ring, e-mail, or a contact of some sort and we'll make a deal!

Lucky Day #13, Metrorider LA Brings It

Day #13 started transit intensive.  We awoke at 8:00am and prepped for our departure.  Packing everything back up we headed out the door at 8:42am.  Near Mike’s place stood a little coffee shop, which happened to be exactly where the bus stop for the OCTA #71 Bus.  There we plunked down all our gear and sat waiting.  The bus wasn’t scheduled until 9:04am, but we figured best be safe than sorry with an unknown transit system.  We sat sipping our morning coffees and I read a bit about the Blood Angels of the Warhammer 40k Universe.

At exactly 9:04am an empty OCTA #71 bus arrived at our footsteps.  I mention empty, only because it was, but I bore in mind that this was the second stop from the beginning of its run.  We boarded the bus with all our stuff and paid the $3.00.  Yes Portlanders, TriMet’s fares aren’t bad at all.  That is $3.00 for two people without a transfer.

The trip went something like this:

9:04am Departure on #71

9:16am 5 ppl total boarded so far.  1 leaves, another person boards.

9:20am Another person gets off, another 1 on.  We’re maintaining our 5 rider count.

Amtrak Inconsistencies

Ticket Taking Process #1

Sunset Limited – Boarding the Sunset Limited in Los Angeles Union Station the car attendants looked at the tickets at the door, but didn’t take them.  One aboard and in our roomettes the attendant then came and took the tickets.  I pulled the receipt part of the ticket since I usually always do so to expedite the archaic ticket taking practice that Amtrak follows still.  The attendant in Los Angeles also assigned the room that was not specified on the ticket.

In Maricopa the attendant that was changing out with the crew came around and took everyone’s tickets, and handed us our receipts.  In both of these situations nobody clipped or otherwise marked the tickets so that they would show as being used.  The time, train, and origination and destination where specific and technically, the ticket is either used or not.  Again, the attendant did not put us in the room that was on the ticket.  This time we did receive a reason why we were being given another roomette instead of the assigned one.

Ticket Taking Process #2

Coast Starlight – Boarding in Portland we enter the First Class Lounge which is basically a waiting room with nicer amenities.  The lounge attendant took our tickets, handing us the receipts.  Again, no other marks or specific directions.  He gave us a room and car assignment in station.  When we boarded, we got another room assignment than the ticket.  This boarding had us go through a total of 2 assignments, before we finally got our actual assignment.  It isn’t really a big deal, it is just ridiculously stupid to need that much busy work for the process.  In reality we shouldn’t even need but ONE room assignment and we don’t need anyone to help us get into or out of the room.

Ticket Taking Process #3

Pacific Surfliner – Boarding in Santa Ana to come north into Los Angeles.  The tickets are unreserved and completely unorganized.  There is no actual seating, you just get on and fumble until you find a seat.  The conductor then comes through the train at some point, takes the tickets (and don’t you dare take the receipts off ahead of time) and clips the tickets and the receipts.  The conductor requested, after I had removed the receipts, that she clip the receipts and that the tickets wouldn’t be valid without the receipts.  It seems beyond stupid to sell unreserved tickets on a train that has reserved seating – at least, that’s what the cars are designed for.  Again, a complete failure for Amtrak to once again be logical.  I do understand that the tickets are not for a particular train, but they are for a particular day, and if I just handed them to her they should NOT BE available to any other customers.  This flow of process is again, stupid.  It doesn’t follow a smooth, coherent, or streamlined process at all.  In many ways, several of the steps are even redundant.

Pacific Surfliner – Boarding again in Santa Ana to come north, a few days before the above mentioned trip.  I removed the receipts from the tickets in front of the conductor.  He clipped the tickets, did NOT ask or take the receipts to clip, and carried on.  Why this is different than the seating before?

The Historical Facts

So really, what is the deal.  This little annoyances don’t really detract from the trip, they just add a bit of confusion to the adventure itself.  For some people, it is reason to be turned away and not try to take the train.  For some people it really ticks them off, since the processes are dissimilar between trains run by the same Government Corporation, Amtrak.  The illogical breaks in the process sow these seeds of frustration and absolutely need fixed.  So Amtrak Execs, get your acts together and get this done.  The disparities are absolutely unnecessary and are wasting Amtrak’s/Taxpayers’ Monies.  One might think these little things don’t add much cost, but they easily add up to thousands upon thousands of dollars of wasted USEFUL employee time.

Amtrak, when it formed, was supposed to fix many of this frustrations, and as is apparent, has barely updated its trains let alone many of its other processes.  I do commend Amtrak on the online ticketing, but still, they have a major labor force that consists of doing unnecessary menial labor and could be utilized doing things that are vastly more important than running what, appears to be, dysfunctional passenger trains.

Overall everyone of our trains was ok, some where great, and some where rather exceptional.  So far, my ratings for the various trains I’ve been on in the last 4 years.  I put an * by the ones that where used recently on the PHX/LAX trip.

Coast Starlight * * * * * 4 stars, a few negative points for timeliness.
Empire Builder * * * * * 5 stars, no actual negatives.
Cascades * * * * 4 stars, timeliness issues.
Acela * * * * 4 stars, the seating is stupid, and basically unreserved even though the train is all “first class”.
Metroliner * * * * 4 stars, seating similar to Acela.  Seats are much smaller.
Sunset Limited * * 1 star.  Train was uncoordinated, crew was a mess, riders are usually half bum/redneck.  Rough train.
Pacific Surfliner * * * * * Same dumb unreserved scrambled herd seating nonsense.
Lakeshore Limited * Train was broke, toilets not working on multiple cars, timeliness issues, attendants had a bit much attitude.

Anyone else got any Amtrak stories?  I hate to give em’ gruff all the time, but really, these things should have much smoother and simplified process around them.  The complexities that the archaic ticketing and seating processes currently used are completely, without doubt, unacceptable and should be resolved ASAP.