The freedom of riding transit (my TriMet story)

About the author: Valerie Chapman lives in Oak Grove, an unincorporated area in Clackamas County. She has volunteered on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Citizens Advisory Committee since 2008.

I began riding the bus regularly ten years ago. Of course, I took the Rose City bus many years ago when I was a student at Portland State University, but that was because my dad wouldn’t let me buy a car. I wanted the freedom of a car and eventually I bought one. Little did I know that one day, I would want the freedom of riding the bus!

Valerie Chapman
Valerie prefers the convenience of not driving.

When I made the switch as an adult it was because I wanted to simplify my lifestyle. I hated the rush-rush of traffic, the endless circling to find a parking spot, and the fast pace that driving seemed to bring with it. There was also the cost of gas and parking and concern for the environment that was growing.

One day I just decided that it would be possible to take the bus one day a week. I really felt nervous at first. I was 53 years old and out of the mass transportation loop. But I saw other people, older than me, hopping on and off buses near the church where I work. If they could do it, surely I could.

The first time I rode I was very concerned about having exactly the right change. I had never purchased tickets in advance, and I didn’t know much about bus passes except that some people were able to just get on the bus and flash a card at the driver. They seemed very bus savvy to me. I picked up bus schedules from the racks that used to be right behind the driver for every bus that I frequented, and I had a lot of angst about missing a bus, doing the wrong thing or worse, getting on the wrong bus. But I quickly discovered that the system was designed to help people ride with ease.

I saw lots of interesting people and talked to many of them. The drivers were quick to answer my questions and I soon learned when my stops were coming up and how to request a stop at night. After the first few weeks of riding the bus once a week, I discovered that I wanted to ride more often. Even though I had been driving back and forth to work for years, I realized that I had missed seeing most of what I drove by.

Valerie Chapman
Valerie likes to talk or read or people-watch on the way.

With someone else focused on the driving, I was able to look out the window and actually notice the neighborhoods I was passing through. I discovered new restaurants and interesting shops that I had not known about. I also enjoyed the changing of the seasons in a different way. On the bus I did not have to worry about pouring rain on the windshield or be afraid to drive on snowy roads.

Within a few months I was buying a monthly pass or packets of tickets. I found that I was riding the bus much more often than I was driving and I really felt good about it. I branched out and rode a MAX line, and began to travel to different parts of the metro area after work hours. All day passes and quick tickets are making trips easier still. And I no longer have to carry around bunches of bus schedules. I can text the bus from my house to see when it is coming and plan adventures around town ahead of time on the computer or from a mobile phone. Just recently, when I had to go to Wilsonville, I went online to TriMet in the hope that I would not have to make that awful drive during the morning rush hour. To my delight, I was able to make the whole trip by bus.

I enjoy the TriMet system. I prefer the convenience of not driving. My husband and I love to walk from our house to the corner of Park Avenue where we catch the #33 bus in to SE Clay Street. There we can transfer to the Central Loop (CL) streetcar. Downtown we transfer to the North South (NS) streetcar going west to 23rd Avenue. That drops us at our favorite restaurant. (I am not telling!) The whole trip is an adventure. We can talk or read or people-watch on the way. And after a great meal, we don’t have to worry about driving back in the dark.

I am looking forward to new adventures when the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line opens in 2015.

Thanks for listening. Hope to meet you on transit!

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