The Side Door


Barista, classically amazing coffee.

Today I headed to The Side Door as my second office of the day. After making my postal pick up at the UPS Store and enjoying a good Barista espresso & cappuccino to kick off the day I wanted a different side of the Willamette. I cut through along Yamhill to Naito Parkway and then along the water front and over the Hawthorne Bridge. Once on the other side it was a loop under the bridge and out to Water Avenue up to The Side Door.

At The Side Door I had a great working session before heading back out for an easy commute back to the home office via the Portland Streetcar CL Line. Yup, that’s right, two trips confirmed on the CL Line.

The working session at The Side Door was great too, in that I was able to get a lot of work done, but also got introduced to a lot of rocking doom metal via the rocking staff. Thanks Side Door staff!

…with that, I’m at the home office and it’s all foot traffic for the rest of this day.

Middle of the Week Commuting

My lady and I enjoyed a joint commute today. I decided my morning office was going to be Barista. I have to make an early morning pickup at the UPS Store for an important delivery pickup and the Barista Coffee Shop (3rd St Location) is just shy of 2 blocks away.

However before I headed off we both walked into Stumptown at Stark. I locked my bike real quick and we walked inside. With just 7 minutes before the streetcar arrived I decided to stay in line and she headed off to purchase a fare for her commute. I then, upon purchasing our quick breakfast croissants, jumped on my bike for the super long (that’s sarcasm ya’ll) trip about 280 feet to the streetcar stop. I rolled up with 4 minutes before the streetcar arrived. We enjoyed chit chat, our croissants and the morning air.

The streetcar arrived on time per the GPS Tracking estimate and per the schedule. It is always a bit amazing when the transit tracker arrival, schedule arrival and the actual arrival are all the same! Almost like the operations are more precise then they are. Because the thing is, this is America, and we’re pretty lazy about our precision of operations in this country. But that’s just fine for the commutes we’ve built for ourselves.

CL Line (click for full size, beware, it's huge)

CL Line (click for full size, beware, it’s huge)

My lady boarded the CL Line (yup, you read that right, somebody in downtown is actually riding the CL Line!). She heads across the Broadway Bridge and into the offices at the Left Bank Annex. I headed down the Stark Street Buffered Bike Lane and then onto 3rd to pull into Barista Coffee. I think the cross streets are Washington and 3rd. Barista, if you haven’t tried it, is one of the top coffee shops in the world (yeah, I didn’t mistype, world vs. just Portland).

Overall her commute it about 25 minutes, including the 4 minute wait at the streetcar stop. My commute was about 5 minutes, including a stop at a red light. Including the stop at Stumptown Coffee for morning croissant for her and I we maybe added 3-4 minutes. That’s what a commute should be. End of story.

Boston, Portland’s Sister City?

Recently I took a trip over to the north east coast with my girl. We had a great trip visiting Conneticut, with our flight in and out of Boston. We used a mix of transit while in Boston to connect from the airport to the intercity bus to Hartford. Where we then bummed a ride with my girl’s folks. Overall it was a great trip, but this is my Transit Sleuth Blog, so enough about all that, let’s talk about hard core transit in Boston and how bad ass Boston is.

I’m generally pretty hard to impress when it comes down to transit. Portland does OK, San Francisco does OK, but the cities that really get me are usually the hard core operators like Chicago, New York or Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, Boston has officially entered those ranks of amazing cities. When it comes to removing that noose of automobile ownership and really getting down to important ideals, livability and effective transit and biking options.

Boston Transit Options

Two lines we took that are built out subway style heavy rail, included the Red and Orange Lines. Both of these lines were clean, are practically spotless by American standards, and amazingly well run. The lines were also smooth, without much jarring, and during rush hour I was still able to easily board and de-train in the inner core of the city.

Boston’s subways are cleaner, seemingly faster, and better rides than other comparable systems in cities like New York (MTA has notorious bumpy subway trains, they’re still not as bumpy and jarring as busses, but for a train they’re ridiculous) or Chicago. They’re also very easy to ride. The signage is good and getting around is simple, even when I wasn’t paying attention. The calls for each stop were clear and easy to hear (by comparison, there’s always room for improvement) which was a pleasant break from the standard mumbling on some systems.

The another rail mode option, as Portlanders, San Franciscans and Seattleites would now know, is light rail. I believe in Boston they refer to these as Streetcars however, but I’m not 100% sure. The Green Line was the main line we rode on, getting from North End to the Northeast College area. These trains were driven like a bat out of hell, jarring a bit in the turns, but fast and extremely efficient with solid ridership. The Green Line even splits into three separate segments as it exits the inner core of the city. This line, as the orange and red, was also technically a subway.

Which speaking of, the Silver Line is a bus line, that is underground that runs directly from the airport. This line is technically BRT the way it is intended to be built. However, Boston just refers to it as part of their subway system. There is a lot of contention about the quality of service of the Silver Line versus real rapid transit lines like the other subway lines, since Bostonians were originally promised a light rail line. It appears, after some research on wikipedia and digging through state records that they botched up the construction estimates and planning during the epic big dig failure.

On any of these lines, albeit during rush hour, we never waited for more than 90 seconds, with most of the trains we transferred from or to we had zero wait time. We literally walked onto the platform and onto the train. A transit rider’s dream transfer!


I’m aiming to have a part II to this article regarding the biking options and other parts of the MBTA and Boston’s Transit & biking options. Stay tuned!

CRC, a way to kill decades of progress…

This however, is a vastly superior idea.

A Common Sense Alternative to the CRC from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

Arbor Lodge, A Transit Romance

I visit a lot of coffee shops, and have more than a few favorites in town, but Arbor Lodge has really grown to have a special spot in my transit loving, premium coffee drinking, bike loving heart.

The Arbor Lodge

The Arbor Lodge

My first visit to Arbor Lodge happened purely by accident about a year and a half ago. I was in the area to have breakfast with my parents. We often meet in north Portland along the Yellow Line route at different stops to eat together. They come down from the great northern enclave of Vancouver and Interstate Avenue is an easy way for them to either drive to, or drive and take the MAX to.

This particular day I had arrived a bit early. Since I had 45 minutes to kill I decided to check out this little coffee shop that I spied across the street from Nite Hawk Cafe and Lounge. Nite Hawk is a joint I check out on a semi-regular basis. It’s good diner style food, with a super convenient location next to the Yellow Line Light Rail Stop.

Transit Sleuth Meet Arbor Lodge, Arbor Lodge Meet Transit Sleuth

I went in and immediately took in the simple yet woodsy interior of the coffee shop. The tables, counter and other elements had a finished glazed look of varous pieces of tree stump and wood. It was a warm feel with an openness that was attractive. I pulled up to the counter which provided full view of the espresso machine and other elements behind the counter. All was clean which is always a good sign. To the right of the counter was a glass display case with pastries and other basic items. The pastries were of the local high quality variety.

I ordered a soy cap (cappacino). I didn’t get the scary response of, “what size would you like?” So far, so good. I took a seat at the bar facing out the front window of the shop. The seats were a solid, good quality wood cut, that provided a great view outside of the MAX Stop for south bound light rail trains, the Nite Hawk, and the New Seasons further across the tracks. The traffic on the street out front had regular auto traffic, but also a steady flow of cyclists. Something that isn’t abnormal in Portland, but is a little newer in this northern area of the city.

Hacking @ Arbor Lodge

Hacking @ Arbor Lodge

As I sat and watched all of this I extracted my laptop & phone to sit on the bar counter. I pulled up and checked some email while I waited. Within a short minute or two, my cap was ready. I got up and walked around to the side of the counter where the drink was placed, waiting for my judgement. The foam looked right, the smell was wonderful, and even had a hint of blueberry and pine. I thought to myself, “could this shop be one of the up and coming top notch joints in Portland?” I held up the cap to my nose to smell and sip off some of the foam.

To my delight I was ecstatic. I sipped again, pondering if this were true. It was indeed true! Arbor Lodge, the barista here, had just provided me one of the best capacinos in the entire city! Saying that in Portland is saying something pretty huge. I walked back, perched upon the stool facing outside and enjoyed my drink. I was truly happy, content and enjoying the view. It was one of the tranquil moments in life, when things just seemed all perfect.

I had fallen in love with this great new coffee shop. “I would definitely be back“, I thought to myself.

Fast Forward

Here it is, it has been more than a year and a half since that visit and I’ve been back an easy dozen plus times. Every cup of espresso or coffee is superb. Arbor Lodge carries Coava, which for those coffee drinkers out there, you might just know about this brand.

So next time you’re out and about on the Yellow Line. Stop in for an amazing cup of coffee, cappuccino or other beverage of your choice.

Happy sipping & riding,
-Transit Sleuth

Departing back to downtown Portland.

Departing back to downtown Portland.