I commute from the Gresham TC in the evening. I always have a place to hang my bike when I get on because this stop is only the second stop on the westbound line. It is a different story going out to work in the mornings. I board at the Lloyd Center station and if I don’t catch the train that gets me to work about half an hour early then I often don’t have a place to hang my bike.
I don’t put my bike on the train for pleasure each morning and evening. I do it because i don’t have a car and I don’t have a car because I will not contribute to the pollution of our environment by driving a car. I need my bike because it makes it possible for me to perform my job without a car. I combine biking with the MAX for my commute because it would take too long to ride from my home to my job and I don’t want to arrive sweaty and worn-out. Using Trimet and my bike has been workable up to now. What happened on Friday on the train has me worried.
A young woman got on the train at about 172nd. She had a fixed gear bike with a tire too wide for the hook and instead of standing where the hook is, she stood on the other side of the door. The fare inspector on the train asked her for her fare, then her ID, called into find out if she was excluded or had citations, when she didn’t (to his surprise I am sure–did I forget to mention that she was dressed in black with face piercings?), he proceeded to lecture her about where she could be with her bike, and which doors she could use to enter the train when she has her bike. During the course of his lecture the train stopped at two stations and at each of these someone tried to board the train with a bike. Because both hooks were taken on that end of the train, the inspector would not let the bicyclists board. We all know that there is not enough time to run to the other end of the train and get on before the doors close. Since this was the front end of the first car, they were out of luck. They had to wait for the next train and hope that they could get on.
People ride Trimet for many reasons. Some out of concern for the environment, some because they don’t like driving in traffic, some because they can’t afford gas for their cars, some because they don’t have cars, some because they cannot drive, and there are probably other reasons. We want people to use mass transit. It makes our city a more livable place. Fewer cars, less congestion, less road rage, less stress, happier citizens. Less pollution, less illness, healthier citizens. Bicyclists contribute to this happier, healthier populace. We shouldn’t be punished for using both our bikes and mass transit to commute. Trimet should go to great lengths to accommodate bicyclists.
Not being allowed to get on the train because all the hooks are taken could mean that a bike commuter loses his or her job for being late to work. Especially if that someone is working a minimum wage job with no benefits because these are the jobs that desperate people have and there is always another desperate person to fill them. I know this because I work with those desperate people trying to help them find places to live after they have lost their jobs and their housing. Mr Inspector, you are not just denying someone with a bicycle the right to get on the train, you could be taking away the roof over their head.
There are no signs on the MAX stating that bicycles have to be hung from the hooks. There are no signs stating that people with bikes can enter only through the end doors. There is no reason for us to have to enter through those doors only. Here is something that happens frequently. I go to get on the train. a stroller is blocking the door, another stroller is under the bicycle hook. They move. It works out.
One morning last week I got on the airport train because i was going out to the Parkrose TC. As is to be expected there were people with lots of luggage. There were also lots of bikes. Myself and another cyclist were in the middle where the wheelchair access doors are located. I shifted back and forth depending on which door was going to open so that I did not get in anyone’s way. i did not impede any other passenger. It was perfectly workable and perfectly safe.
I suggest that Trimet take some of the seats out of some of the cars and install more hooks. I suggest that these cars run during rush hours from 6:30 am to 9:00 am and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m..
Barring a solution such as this, I think it is reprehensible for Trimet to get heavy-handed with bicycle commuters. The MAX is not comfortable when it is full. Whether there are bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs, or just lots of people it is noisy, smelly, disease infested, dirty, costs too much and the ticket machines often don’t work, and the ticket validators often don’t work, and the fare inspectors are rigid and menacing and could use some interpersonal relationship training, and commuters all have to manage this twice a day. Cut us some slack.