Hitching a ride

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What is TriMet thinking? While expanding downtown, they are proposing to reduce service in the suburbs beginning this September.

Lately in the Vanguard news and editorial sections, TriMet’s controversial plans have been a hot topic to discuss. The downtown transit mall project might make commuting a bit easier for some students, but others would lose their homes, as TriMet would need to tear down some on-campus housing buildings.

While TriMet is infuriating people by trying to demolish their housing, they are also irritating suburban commuters by reducing services, which would begin in September.

The issue, examined in The Oregonian, that lays out TriMet’s new plans had a heading which read “TriMet: Ridership has increased for 20 years.” Indeed, Oregonians are following TriMet’s pleas to, “Do the green thing. Ride TriMet instead of driving.”

But do they mean “green” as in saving the environment or “green” as in giving them lots of hard-earned cash?

Naturally, they’re implying the former, but with the recent spike in fares the latter seems more apparent to riders. TriMet claimed that the increase was due to high gas prices, but they seem to not realize that gas prices have been low since December.

Now TriMet is blaming the economy. Due to an increase in unemployment, TriMet hasn’t had as much revenue from taxes. But it seems like cutting service in the suburbs seems to stem, at least partially, from the need to compensate for the downtown expansion plans. That’s not going to bode well for students who live and work in the suburbs.

Bus lines to be cut are the following: 18-Hillsdale, 33-Freemont, 41-Tacoma, 55-Hamilton, 60-Leahy Road, 63-Washington Park, 74-Loyd District, 86-Alderwood, 153-South End Loop Road, 156-Mather Road and 157-Happy Valley.

Some of these lines had bus accidents during December’s winter storm. Others have sister routes, but these routes are already busy and crowded. Some are lines that only a handful of people use.

Weekend hours would be cut at least one day on the following lines. According to TriMet’s Web site, there will be no Saturday service on 1-Vermont, 10-Harold, 34-River Road and 51-Vista. There will be no Sunday service on 17-Northwest 21st, 48-Cornell, 58-Canyon Road and 67-Jenkins/158th Ave. There will be no weekend service at all on 39-Lewis and Clark, 43-Taylors Ferry Road, 47-Baseline/Evergreen, 59-Walker/Park Way and 89-Tanasborne. Nineteen other lines also have reduced weekend hours.

Since a few of these are shopping districts, retail employees will have an even more difficult time getting to work. The Tanasborne line is proposed to close around 7 p.m. but shops don’t close until around 9 p.m. How are these employees supposed to get home?

It doesn’t just affect employees. Shoppers will also have a more difficult time getting around. As a result, businesses will see an even greater decline in revenue.

All MAX lines would be reduced in how often the trains run. This would make rush hour rides less comfortable.

Also, if a commuter is late getting to the MAX station (say, maybe, due to a late bus), they have to wait longer for a subsequent train to arrive and risk being late to work. With the high percentage of unemployment, jobs are too precious in this fragile economy to risk being late.

Due to the economy, cars are more difficult to procure. People who have lost jobs can’t afford to buy them, let alone maintain the upkeep and insurance. Banks are more stringent on who they allow to borrow money.

It’s more important than ever before that TriMet’s priorities have the interest of businesses and workers first and foremost. This is not the time to be coercing people out of their housing (even if it is to make room for more).

Portlanders already have a much better transit system downtown. Plus, it’s easier to walk or bike across downtown than in the rest of the metropolitan area.

Whether you ride the bus or not, this is an issue that affects the economy and, therefore, everyone. Check out www.trimet.org for more details. Then, let your voice be heard. TriMet is accepting public comments now through the end of March on proposed cuts and fareless square changes.

Email: [email protected]
Comment line: 503-962-5806
Fax: 503-962-6469
Mail: TriMet-MK2, 4012 S.E. 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
TTY: 503-238-5811 (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays)

TriMet will also be holding informal open houses to answer questions and gather input from the public:

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Portland Building, Room C
1120 S.W. Fifth Ave.

Thursday, Feb. 26, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Clackamas Town Center (formerly The Icing)
12000 S.E. 82nd Ave.

Friday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Portland State Office Building
800 N.E. Oregon St., Room 1E

Let’s hope they give some good answers.

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