Taking a Survey

Jo and I, while checking out the new apartment in downtown on Sunday, decided to swing by Powell’s to find some books.  We arrived with no fuss via the streetcar and went about our business.  As we walked through though I noticed a table where TriMet was taking a survey of drivers, riders, or whoever.  I decided I was a perfect candidate to take the survey so went back after walking by to put in my two cents.

First off, I have to complain.  Whoever setup the survey setup a broken survey, but I get the gist of what TriMet was trying to get to.  The key points were as follows:

    1. What type of stop do people prefer.
    2. What type of vehicle/mode do people prefer.
    3. What is the wait time people allow before driving.
    4. What type of seating to people prefer.
    5. What type of security do people prefer.
    6. Walking vs wait time.
    7. How important is vehicle/mode cleanliness.
    8. How important is driver friendliness.
    9. What of the above is more important to you.

I might have forgot one or two.  Here’s my take on how and what I prefer.

1. I don’t care about the stop, and personally am bothered by the wasteful amounts of money TriMet spends on some of the stops.  Especially for the streetcar.  There are lots of streetcar systems, some with better frequency and ridership, that basically have no real curb or stop of any sort.  The extra time it takes for these fancy stops in mixed traffic modes is just annoying.  Forget it, non-functional.  Give me a marker and a schedule and I’m a happy rider (maybe a shelter in places where the traffic may splash waiting riders, etc)

2. This is easy.  In order based on Portland’s available modes:  Light Rail (Type 2 & 3, Type 4, and Type 1), streetcar (2nd gen, 1st gen), and bus (high floor bus, others…)

3. As long as I have transit tracker, I’ll schedule around the bus.  Without transit tracker the bus better have a 10 minutes or less frequency, otherwise I won’t use transit.  The simple rule I go by, is I’m not standing at a stop for an extended amount of time if at all possible.

4. I’d prefer plush, but I really don’t care.  The seating TriMet has is just fine.

5. Security is not TriMet’s responsibility.  Saying it is, the fact that TriMet is somehow forced to be responsible, is a direct violation of logic.  It is stupid to have TriMet setup this way, the plain fact is society allowed police departments to be setup for the purpose of personal security.  It is THEIR JOB to enforce security within society.  The police, not TriMet.

On another point that I have contention with.  Anyone that relies on others for their personal security endangers themselves and those around them.  Always, ALWAYS be prepared to flee, defend, or otherwise take charge of your personal security.  If you expect others to do this for you, you might as well give up.

6. I’ll walk up to 10 minutes if it is an infrequent trip, and up to 8 minutes for a daily commute.  For multiple trips during the day I won’t walk more than 2-6 minutes to a stop.  Once at a stop I prefer not to wait more than 5-6 minutes at most.  This is of course resolved by simply timing my walk & wait times with Transit Tracker.

7. Cleanliness only gets to be important to me when things are really dirty.  If a mode is dirty, I will turn around and call a taxi if it is too bad.  Otherwise newspapers, mud on the floor, water, etc is not a big deal.  Human or animal feces, other rancid items, or overpowering stenches will have me in a taxi without a second thought.

8. I get along with the fact that many drivers are not much more than blank faces and spent as human beings.  But I commend and LOVE when a bus drivers enjoys, loves, and thrives as a driver.  I like it when I hear a driver make announcements and chats with riders.  Al M, Dan Christensen, streetcar driver Fred, and others come to mind.  These drivers are GREAT!  This is VERY important to me.  It is (and Al may hate this statement) to me the last semblance transit has to the private existence it started as in this country.  The streetcar operator stories, the human elements, these are the things that draw transit into the very human existence that it is.  Put simply, this is the one thing that buses have over light rail and the “modern streetcar” of Portland.  The human-less, face-less experience on light rail and streetcar is frustrating.  Here Portland is building a human city versus a car city and we have these faceless transit modes.  But I will choose the financially reasonable option that provides more for society than the human face of the bus, only because the community is still involved in the ride, but I’d rather have both features.

9. The most important aspect of transit to me is complex.  It however boils down to something that isn’t the actual transit itself.  Instead it is the lifestyle that it allows.  The car-free, worry free, relaxed lifestyle and relaxing trip enabled by transit service.  The ability to get home and not be strung out or mentally warped and skewed from commuting via the automobile.  The zoning changes and more compact and connected communities that transit also enables (more so than automobile based zoning).  So overall, it is the lifestyle, not particularly the transit.  But one really doesn’t go without the other.

So what are your priorities?  What are the most important things for you in the transit service you use (or don’t use)?

[11/14/09 – Correction:  I stated “and personally am bothered by the wasteful amounts of money TriMet spends on some of the stops.”, which is a faulty statement.  TriMet does not and did not fund any of the stops for the streetcar, the City of Portland, or more specifically the non-profit subsidized Portland Streetcar spent the money on those stops.  I still am bothered by their spending taxpayer money
(and lots of it) on stops that are ridiculously overbuilt.]

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29 Comments

  1. Not concerned at all about security? That’s ridiculous. I’ve been in countries where women are regularly harassed and groped on public transportation. That is not okay. Trimet needs to have enough security to keep things under control and relatively normal (as they are now). Anything less, and you’ll find women won’t take transit.

    I much prefer the train to buses and will walk a bit further to take the train. Regardless I’ll always take the most direct route. I’ll walk further on each end if it means I don’t have to transfer.

    Reply

  2. 1. What type of stop do people prefer.
    Only preference I have here is that I can get out of the rain. The stops I take now don’t have this luxury, but at least on the way home I can take a slightly different direction and get under a cover if I really need too. Other than that, as long as the Driver knows I’m there and stops it’s a good enough stop for me. (BTW TriMet…the Bus Stop on Scholls and Tiel…may want to move the Bus Stop sign or work out some deal with the apartment behind the stop and get those tree’s trimmed.)
    2. What type of vehicle/mode do people prefer.
    For Light Rail, I actually like the original "1st gen" cars better, yes you have to step up to them, but the seating in those cars seem to be better. The latest cars just seem too…"crowded" to me…however, it’s not often I take light rail.
    For buses…let me go over each type:
    Oldest bus, The "step up" high floor bus: This seems to be the most comfortable to me. Stepping up is not that big of a deal and the buses are sturdy and seating is plenty and it is not too uncomfortable (To call a bus seat comfortable is to believe the McDonald’s Angus burgers really are a Gourmet meal…)
    "Newer" style, the 1st gen low floor bus: This bus scares the willies out of me…sure, stepping in is easy as pie, with the floor at the curb level. This bus would be perfect if you were on a perfect street. But it seems even the littlest of bumps and it sounds like you are in a battlefield and mortars are going off around your head. Hit a medium size bump and you think the world is coming to an end. Hit a large bump and your rear is sore and you WISH the world was coming to an end.
    "Newest" style, the 2nd gen low floor bus: This has the convenience of curb level flooring. If you’re Catholic the first impulse you have when walking in is to kneel. The Driver towers over you as if he is presiding over his flock. If you aren’t Catholic…think of a Judge at his bench looking down on you as you slink past him feeling guilty even though you’ve done nothing wrong. Other than that, it is a very nice bus. Smooth ride, good seating arrangements…Just wish it had more seats.
    3. What is the wait time people allow before driving.
    Wait time is less of a problem if you are smart enough to use Transit Tracker. If you are relying on the old school paper schedule I would suggest getting there 5 minutes early and expect to wait 10-15 minutes.
    4. What type of seating to people prefer.
    This one is tough for me. I have long legs, and have developed bursitis in the knees because of seating. I need more space in between seats so my knees don’t hit the seat in front of me. So, typically I seat in the "log ways" seats that go along the isles and just keep my big feet out of the way of other passengers. Otherwise I Try for the seats at the end of these benches (The "bulk head seats") Worst case I get an aisle seat and sit at an angle (Not very comfortable at all.) or I stand.
    5. What type of security do people prefer.
    This question makes no sense. Last I checked the only thing TriMet "security" was good for was pushing belligerent drunks off the bus (Which I am very thankful for.) So, if you mean Security ON the bus or light rail, I would say I prefer these guys be close buy to stop any fights or to prevent me from having to shove my boot in someone’s abdomen to keep them from harassing that poor old lady who just wants to get home. Outside, at the stops…well, that’s the business of the Police department, and if you have a problem with that, then this survey isn’t the venue to discuss those issues.
    6. Walking vs wait time.
    In an ideal world I would only ever have to walk 3 blocks. But living on the outskirts of town I understand that at times I have to walk a ways to get to the bus stop. I don’t mind walking, that makes my doctor happy and unless its down pouring its a nice diversion after a long day at work. HOWEVER…One thing that irritates me to NO END, is attempting to time my walk when the Transit Tracker will only show me the "Scheduled stop time" just to find out that particular bus isn’t running and now I have to wait for 20 minutes+ for the next bus to show up. When its raining it makes me particularly angry. When it is snowing it makes me livid! Especially when I’m there for a half hour with the Transit Tracker (And the automated phone system) INSISTING The bus is just a bit late and will be there any minute when I get a news report from a source OTHER THAN TRIMET telling me all busses in my area have been canceled.
    The real rant: Transit Tracker needs to be more Accurate. TriMet needs to be more HONEST with their customers and take the responsibility that sometimes drivers call in sick and you are having a hard time getting a replacement driver so that particular bus WON’T make it and you need to wait for the next one. A missed bus is NOT the end of the world, trying to hide the fact that busses get missed IS.
    7. How important is vehicle/mode cleanliness.
    As long as it doesn’t stink, and nothing unidentifiable is dripping from the ceiling…other than that..its a "high traffic" area and a bit of dirt and grime is going to happen from so many shoes/boots/sandles/etc walking over and over the same area.
    8. How important is driver friendliness.
    Just as long as he isn’t crabby!! Although, a driver that loves his job makes the bus ride much more enjoyable. For Light rail…never have any interaction, so I can’t say.
    9. What of the above is more important to you.
    Transit Tracker is the most important tool for all the above questions. With an accurate measure of where my bus is, I will walk over a mile to get to where I need to be. Without knowing for sure if I walk that mile a bus will be there then I’ll get in my car and drive. Transit Tracker 75% of the time is a blessing. 25% of the time I’m shouting at it because it doesn’t tell me what I need to know.

    Reply

  3. Maisy – Hello, thx for commenting. Two quick points about security.

    1. I admit I’m a bit biased as I’ve had to defend myself before, and found the police absolutely useless throughout my life in numerous scenarios. In addition in several situations on transit I’ve been the sole individual that took up for others at the On that note of context…

    2. TriMet is a transit agency, the police are a security entity. I think it is a smart idea to have security on transit, but transit is a public space and security should absolutely be provided by the police. It is THEIR JOB! The mixing of budgets, stepping outside of the TriMet’s core competencies makes for less security for the dollar and a misappropriation of responsibility. In addition that cuts into the underlying funds available for actual transit.

    So I’m not against the security being there, just not in favor of the way that the security is operated, funded, and implemented. I am very sure we are not getting a good bang for our buck.

    Reply

  4. I wanted to add a quick simple comment – thx Jay – awesome answers.

    I honestly think that a large group, maybe even the majority of riders find Transit Tracker to be a HUGE priority.

    Reply

  5. 1. What type of stop do people prefer.
    Not as picky about stop type (shelters/seating are nice but I can do without). If it’s on a busy road I like there to be some sort of space between me and the road (sidewalks are fine, not as crazy about the ones where you have to pretty much stand in the road/shoulder). Schedules would be greatly appreciate at all stops, but at the very least, the stop IDs should be mandatory on all stops. It sucks that they’re not, because that really reduces the utility of the transit tracker.

    2. What type of vehicle/mode do people prefer.
    Don’t really care bus-wise. Train-wise, I prefer sitting up higher, so either any part of a Type 1 or the upper decks of the low floor cars are fine. If standing in a train, the Type 1s have the best design for short people because there are a lot of places where the stanchions are low enough to reach – not so much on the Type 2/3 and 4s!

    3. What is the wait time people allow before driving.
    This question is too aimed at choice riders.

    4. What type of seating to people prefer.
    Generally anything that lets me make a quick getaway if the person sitting next to me creeps me out or gets threatening. In other words, the seats on the Type 4s kind of suck – there’s no way I’d sit in that cramped inner seat with a stranger blocking me in there!

    5. What type of security do people prefer.
    A bigger police presence (not Wackenhut) would be nice, especially after dark.

    6. Walking vs wait time.
    Unless it’s a bad asthma day or it’s an operator I wanted to say hi to, I’ll walk up to 2 miles instead of waiting 30+ minutes for a bus. If downtown, my wait time is probably less than 10 minutes. Five if we’re talking streetcar.

    7. How important is vehicle/mode cleanliness.
    Well yeah, no biohazards, but in my experience TriMet has been good about getting biohazards cleaned from platforms and biohazard buses/trains out of service. I sort of just assume everything on a train or bus is dirty and wash my hands after riding. Not a huge deal.

    8. How important is driver friendliness.
    I love friendly operators on both bus & rail! It doesn’t ruin my day if the operator doesn’t respond when I say "hi" or "thanks" but it does feel good to get a greeting from a bus operator or a smile/wave from rail.

    9. What of the above is more important to you.
    Getting stop IDs on all bus stops!

    Reply

  6. 1. Every passenger who wishes to use TriMet should have comparable stop amenities. In Oregon, it rains. A lot. The vast majority of stops should have a shelter sufficient to cover the peak (or most of the peak) ridership for the stop. Only the most underused stops should lack a shelter. If electric service is available to the stop (which is virtually every stop) then there needs to be lighting, and a Transit Tracker stop. Adequate seating needs to be available. Unimpeded pedestrian access (sidewalks) should exist for a bare minimum of 250 feet, preferably 500-1000 feet, in each direction from the stop, with major streets having pedestrian crosswalk improvements (warning lights, traffic signals).

    2. This is a loaded question directly intended to feed TriMet’s anti-bus bias. Even I will take a train versus a bus, if all other things are equal. The problem is that TriMet intentionally makes the bus experience so much less than rail that folks misunderstand the question and will claim rail is better for the wrong reasons. In many cases, bus is better, or the bus service works better. If I’m getting from Tigard to Washington Square – yes, WES will get me there if I don’t mind a very long walk. Tigard to Beaverton – WES can be better but where am I in Tigard? Why can’t TriMet implement a 76E?

    Meanwhile, there are areas of Portland that need transit and cannot, do not, or will not have rail service. In this case the mode isn’t bus versus rail, it’s TriMet versus my car. And 99.99999999% of the time I’m going to choose my car, because TriMet doesn’t give me anything to get me out of my car. Why should I wait 20 minutes alongside a road with no bus shelter for a late bus with a leaky roof, requires a transfer, and when I transfer the bus I needed to transfer to pulls out just as my bus pulls in so I have another 15-20 minute wait…in the end it took me two hours when I could have driven in 20 minutes? That is the real question.

    3. No more than 15 minutes. I can generally get anywhere I need to go within 15 minutes unless I’m driving across the metro area.

    4. It needs to be comfortable. Not necessarily plush. The new seats on the 2600-2900 buses, and the type III and IV trains are actually nice. But the legroom leaves much to be desired, and on a crush load bus I feel cramped and have to stretch my legs into the aisle. TriMet needs larger buses to accomodate the loads that ride the bus on a daily basis.

    5. The system needs to be safe or it’s just another reason people won’t ride TriMet. I disagree with Adron that security is not TriMet’s responsibility – otherwise we would simply have ONE police department (like much of Canada or Germany does). In the U.S. police departments are aligned by jurisdiction, with each government jurisdiction having responsibility of its own security. That’s why the Airport has its own police department, why OHSU and PSU have their own security forces, why federal office buildings have Federal Protective Services, the VA Hospital has its own police department; why we have city, state and county police departments. Portland Public Schools used to have their own police department, now they pay the City of Portland. Likewise, TriMet must have a security plan and currently they pay for a police force and security. Why should, for example, the City of Beaverton patrol the MAX line when TriMet doesn’t pay Beaverton to do it (as TriMet doesn’t pay property taxes to the city)? The City of Beaverton has to pay TriMet to give its employees bus passes; TriMet doesn’t give them away for free and the same is true in reverse.

    6. 10-15 minutes tops. And it needs to be consistent; increasingly late buses make the wait time longer and directly impacts ridership in a negative manner.

    7. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Who wants to ride a bus that’s completely grafittied, the seats look like someone peed in them, the bus reeks of who knows what smells, there’s garbage everywhere…in short it looks like TriMet has no pride in itself? Just like the bus stops – it needs to be clean, or it’s a turnoff.

    8. IMPORTANT. I think in our country and society people expect a certain level of courtesy but also understand the bus driver has other jobs and can’t be 100% pleasant. I don’t expect the Operator to bend over backwards, but a smile and a "good morning" or "have a good day" does go a long ways. A bus driver who doesn’t even look at me or scowls at me is a turn off. Of course, with MAX, the Operators are kept away from passengers and there’s absolutely no personal contact.

    9. I think it’s the "total transit experience" that is most important. Any one of these has the potential of turning away potential riders. The problem is that TriMet focuses way too much on building the rail system at the expense of the bus system, and does little to nothing to improve the bus system. Years ago, the airlines operated on a believe that "nobody likes riding puddle-jumpers" (turbo-props) and heavily invested in 50 seat jets to serve small communities. The aircraft manufacturers spent a lot of money improving those small planes, and later surveys showed that the type of plane didn’t make so much of a difference anymore. Meanwhile, those 50 seat jets became way too expensive to operate, and airlines started getting rid of them. As long as you provide the service, that’s what counts.

    Yes, with all things equal I’ll pick train over bus; that is simply because of my interest in trains. What’s more important is that when I need transit that it’s there, it’s reliable, it’s comfortable, and it is not a significant inconvenience. The bus provides a useful method of transport that many people use on a daily basis by choice and deserves investment to encourage continued – and new – ridership. Even progressive cities in Europe heavily invest in their bus systems; and bus investments have proven to increase ridership and interest in transit systems. Light rail and streetcar is simply a natural progression when ridership outstrips the ability for high capacity buses to carry the loads. Portland turns this proven fact upside down, fails to improve the bus experience and uses light rail to "encourage development" (itself with questionable results, as much of the development required massive tax subsidies to complete, and much of the development was government related, thus taking properties off the tax rolls; and to this day there are dozens of undeveloped or underdeveloped properties along the original MAX line to Gresham) at the expense of our regional transportation needs. Light rail certainly has its successes, but so has the bus system – and as we all pay the same fare, deserve the same service. The choice of vehicle should be to meet the demand, not to fulfill the desires of politicians, developers, and to stage photo opportunities.

    Reply

  7. Thx for the comment Erik. A few quick pointers.

    #7 – graffitied, tagged, and dirty are all completely seperate things. Saying they are similar or identical is like comparing a Porsche, and Ford Pinto, and a BNSF Freight Engine.

    #8 – You idea that somehow unequal environments deserve equal service is unsettling at best, and disturbing at worst. How is a high ridership line with well laid, square zoned, high density blocks with single family, apartments, duplex, etc, supposed to have equal service to a sprawling half acre single family home, non-square zoned area? It is IMPOSSIBLE to provide the same level of service; the sprawl would bankrupt the city, the aforementioned environment would be drastically over demand by comparison. You know plenty well the more sprawl is served the more expensive the service gets. Hell, if Portland only served between downtown and I-205 on the east bank of the Willamette and left Gresham, Hillsboro, and the rest of the area to themselves, TriMet would be a net-break even service. That’s with fares at the level they are. So seriously – this same level of service things is more biased than the theoretical rail vs. bus bias TriMet has – aside, it is non-functional and financially and physically impossible. If this isn’t what you mean, then we ought to have a discussion at the transit meetup/beer… because I do get the suspician that you are stating this with much more context than "equal service for all" might lead one to believe.

    In your closing statement, I also just wanted to say that I completely agree with this statement – how we get to a service that provides service based on this – is probably something that I and many others rarely agree on. Simply put, I do not believe, nor have any evidence to show that a Government run operation (like TriMet, Amtrak, etc) will EVER be able to provide service that is based on the following statement you made, "The choice of vehicle should be to meet the demand, not to fulfill the desires of politicians, developers, and to stage photo opportunities."

    Maybe one day society will find a way, until then we just have to keep plugging along.

    Reply

  8. All of the comments to date(11/14) are fantastic! I agree with almost all of them! I hope that you are forwarding them to the appropriate Trimet office for review. Some that I support:

    Adron’s no. 9 comment.

    Jay R. I agree with Jay R’s comment on shelters. Something to get out of the rain, please. Also agree that first generation max trains are waaaaay better than the newer ones!

    Erik H. "The choice of vehicle should be to meet the demand, not to fulfill the desires of politicians, developers, and to stage photo opportunities." Good statement.

    "As long as you provide the service, that’s what counts. IMPORTANT. I think in our country and society people expect a certain level of courtesy but also understand the bus driver has other jobs and can’t be 100% pleasant. I don’t expect the Operator to bend over backwards, but a smile and a "good morning" or "have a good day" does go a long ways. A bus driver who doesn’t even look at me or scowls at me is a turn off."

    "Meanwhile, there are areas of Portland that need transit and cannot, do not, or will not have rail service. In this case the mode isn’t bus versus rail, it’s TriMet versus my car. And 99.99999999% of the time I’m going to choose my car, because TriMet doesn’t give me anything to get me out of my car. Why should I wait 20 minutes alongside a road with no bus shelter for a late bus with a leaky roof, requires a transfer, and when I transfer the bus I needed to transfer to pulls out just as my bus pulls in so I have another 15-20 minute wait…in the end it took me two hours when I could have driven in 20 minutes? That is the real question."

    "3. No more than 15 minutes. I can generally get anywhere I need to go within 15 minutes unless I’m driving across the metro area."

    "4. It needs to be comfortable. Not necessarily plush. The new seats on the 2600-2900 buses, and the type III and IV trains are actually nice. But the legroom leaves much to be desired, and on a crush load bus I feel cramped and have to stretch my legs into the aisle. TriMet needs larger buses to accomodate the loads that ride the bus on a daily basis."

    "5. The system needs to be safe or it’s just another reason people won’t ride TriMet."

    I started to copy parts of Erik H comments to say I agreed with them….but actually, just ditto for me on almost all of them. In fact, I am in awe of his comments! They are so accurate. . . .

    I am not sure who made the comment 8 (J?) below, but I agree totally. A friendly driver can make my day. Yes!
    "8. How important is driver friendliness.
    I love friendly operators on both bus & rail! It doesn’t ruin my day if the operator doesn’t respond when I say "hi" or "thanks" but it does feel good to get a greeting from a bus operator or a smile/wave from rail."

    I definitely hope someone in Trimet and (Vancouver’s C-Tran) are reading them.

    Reply

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