The Stank Factor

I’ve been relegated to taking the public transportation system here in Portland since my car died.  I’ve used it before, so I’m no stranger to it.  In fact, it’s because I used it before that I have the car in the first place.  You see, I despise public transportation.

Is despise too strong a word?  Hm.  Well….nope.  I don’t think so.

I’ve got seven reasons why I hate public transportation.  In no particular order:

1)  Expense.

For us, public transportation has actually been MORE expensive than owning a car.  In the past I have almost always bought my cars with cash.  I don’t usually spend more than $1500 for a car, since I can’t afford to spend more than that, anyway.  With the exception of the last year, most cars I’ve bought for less than $1000 have lasted me years and were totally worth every penny I spent on them.  Even with repairs and maintenance, the cost of the cars was less than $50-75 a month for the span of the time I owned them.  And then I always recouped some of the money spent when I sold off the car, so that made it even cheaper, averaging out the money back.  Add insurance and the cost averaged somewhere near $120-150 a month.  Add gas and you’re talking about $200-225.

Now, at $1500, this last car was more than we usually spend AND it ended up needing a lot of repairs AND it died before I even had it a year, which means those factors took me out of what my norm usually is.  But if I stick with my average and compare it to what Trimet costs, you’ll see Trimet is more expensive.  Adult passes are $100 each.  Plus if my husband wants to take the Lift (a special Trimet bus for disabled people that will drive him directly to his doctor appointments and whatnot) it’s an additional charge.  He usually gets a 20 trip pass for $48 instead of the monthly pass, since he doesn’t take the Lift every day.  We also get a monthly pass for our daughter, which is another $28.  Fortunately for our pocketbooks, my husband is disabled and qualifies for the Honored Citizen pass, which is only $26.  If it weren’t for that, we would be paying for TWO of those $100 passes.  Instead, our total comes to $100+26+28+48=$202.

So even though my husband gets the disabled rates, the cost of Trimet is about the same as us driving our own car.  If we had to pay the full fare for him, it would be over $50 more.

Trimet, I ask you:  How is this supposed to be a good value?  Oh, you’re comparing your cost to the folks who own vehicles with $400+ a month payments.  Yeah, I could see why public transportation is cheaper when you do that.  But I think most people who can afford a $400+ car payment wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus, anyway.

Pssst.  Hey, Trimet.  I don’t know if you noticed, but it seems like most of the folks who ride the bus regularly for their main source of transport are broke.  You’ve got kids, you’ve got college students, you’ve got transients and mental cases.  You’ve got people working barely above minimum wage jobs in service industries.  Those are your riders. We’re stuck on public transportation because we can’t afford to buy a car at the moment.

2)  Inconvenience

The bus and the Max are hella inconvenient.  I’ve been looking at the schedules and comparing them to what I used to take back in 2008-2010, back when I was a college student and I took Trimet regularly.  There are less stops and the bus routes end even earlier.  If I had to take Trimet now to the place where I used to live when I was first going to college, I wouldn’t be able to now.  The bus doesn’t go late enough for me to come home from my evening classes.  The prices have gone up, the service has lessened, and you have less options.  It used to be you could choose a one zone or a two zone or an all zone pass and pay accordingly, so that you wouldn’t have to pay so much.  Not anymore.  Now it is all just one fare for everywhere.

A lot of Trimet’s time and energy seems to have gone into creating new Max lines.  That’s all nice and everything, but I would like to see a 24 hour bus service, not one that ends before midnight once you get past 122nd street.  I work graveyard and have night time habits.  I don’t go around in the day very much anymore.  If I don’t catch my rides exactly right, or one is late or something and so I miss my transfer, I’m SCREWED.

In addition, I can’t take people with me like I can in a car.  It makes going places with people incredibly inconvenient.  I have to meet them and I can’t pick them up, like I normally would.  I used to give people rides and help people out when I had a car.  I can’t do that on Trimet.

3) Shopping

Shopping sucks big time if you’re stuck on a bus.  People who use the bus regularly (like we used to) have shopping carts like those little old ladies push around.  Our old cart broke.  We need to get a new one.  Dealing with carts is a pain in the patootie.  Shopping and carrying bags on a bus is an even worse pain.  I don’t care for shopping much as it is, which is why I usually try to go to a few places all in one day toward the beginning of the month, and get most everything we could possibly need.  Then about once a week, if it is necessary, we get more perishables if we need them.  I’ve taken up the habit of cooking in bulk about once a month and freezing everything.  So we don’t usually need to do a lot of shopping after The Big Trip we always do.  The bus makes doing The Big Trip almost impossible.  Total pain in the ass.

4)  Time

It takes longer to do EVERYTHING on the bus.  To go to work or to get home from work, it takes me 15-20 minutes in the car.  Taking the bus and Trimet, from the time I leave the house to the time work starts is almost TWO HOURS.  Mostly because it is at night and the Max I have to take gets me there about 40 minutes early.  If I take the next one, I would be late.  (That goes back to that inconvenience thing.) When I get off work, it takes me only a mere hour and a half before I get home.  Wheee!

To do errands it takes forever.  Travel time and waiting for transfer time for each and every place you want to go adds up and next thing you know, to go three places you’ve been gone the better part of a day.

5) The Elements

Waiting for the bus or the Max in the bright sunshine is nice.  But it’s winter right now and I have rain to contend with.  And since this is Oregon, we have rain a LOT.  I think my umbrella is now firmly planted in my hand and is going to sprout soon.  I can feel the roots traveling down my arm…

The seats get wet, the wind blows the rain in your face, and lots of stops don’t even have seats, let alone shelters.  And it seems like when I want to get into a shelter to get out of the rain there is a 95% probability that a smoker will be in there already and has lit up, blowing that icky smoke all around.

Which brings us to another issue–

6)  The Stank

Trimet stinks.  The stops and shelters often smell of piss and vomit.  Trash is all over the place.  They aren’t clean and it’s pretty disgusting.  The physical locations aren’t the only problems.  There are smokers–tobacco and marijuana. Kids who like to bathe in perfume and/or cologne as an acceptable alternative to bathing (or maybe they just think the stench makes them sexy?) seem to swarm everywhere. Then there’s those who enjoy smoking marijuana who also like to bathe in the patchouli, which is the ultimate in stankness.  And of course, there is your everyday garden variety B.O.  And not just mine.  Other people’s.

For whatever reason, I seem to be a stank magnet.  The stanky people like to sit and stand near me.  It’s gaggifying.  Yes, I just made up that word, but it fits.

7)  Obnoxious People

This is sort of obvious, no?  Loud kids, music blaring, inconsiderate jerks who won’t move their packages so you can sit down, people who invade your space so they can be comfortable and don’t give a shit about your own, foul language, violent and aggressive behavior, you name it.  And that’s just my family.  Imagine the rest of the folks on transit.

So, yeah.  I despise Trimet.

Trimet could learn a few things from the Corvallis Transit System.  It’s free.  Of course, Corvallis is all of like seven miles wide and I could walk from one end to the other, but it’s FREE.  There are some of the same issues on that bus as there are on Trimet, but my memory seems to tell me it was much much less back when I lived there.  Small town, smaller population, less on the bus maybe?  The bus didn’t run more than every half an hour and it didn’t go very late.  But still.  It’s FREE.  And I could easily walk or ride my bike where I needed to if I had to.  And it the bus is FREE.

It’s hard to bitch and moan about something if it’s free.  Trimet, if you really want to increase your ridership, you need to address some of the problems above and most of all reduce your fares.  Or make them free.  That would be better.  Where would you get the money for it?  I have no clue.  But I do know that I will gladly buy another car again and abandon your service in a New York minute, if I can scrape up the cash to do so.

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