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I chose my current apartment in SE Portland solely due to the bus line which stops right at my front door (well okay, it's more like 100 feet, but still). The TriMet 75 39th-Lombard, at the time I moved back here to SE from NE Portland a few years ago, used to come every 15 minutes or better and took me almost directly to where I was working at the time, up near the intersection of Columbia and NE 47th near the airport. Now, a few years later and after a couple of rounds of service cuts, the 75 bus operates at 18-minute (or worse) intervals, while MAX light rail at my old apartment (I lived a few blocks from Gateway / NE 99th, served then by MAX Red and Blue lines, and now the new Green line as well) still has yet to take any service cuts. I'm not really complaining, since my current neighborhood is infinitely better than my old neighborhood (matter of fact, I broke my lease out there one month early and paid a stiff penalty to the property management company simply because I hated living out there), but this does, at least in my case, say something about who takes hits first and way more often when service cuts come. Also, in this last year, the TriMet 33 bus, which I used to connect to at NE Fremont and 42nd to take to work about a year ago when I worked near Legacy-Emanuel Hospital, was initially slated to no longer serve the hospital at all until last minute compromises during one of the service cut rounds saved the Emanuel part (but not the original through-to-downtown part) of that service. I still rent, but like others here have said I would be much less likely to actually buy property (or set up a business) along a bus line rather than a rail or streetcar line, if transit was a major deciding factor. Which it would be, in my case. Granted, this is probably just because of the numerous inconveniences I've gone through myself over the past year and a half or so of seemingly continuous rounds of TriMet cuts to bus service while trains took none, but it's certainly a real consideration for me now. Anecdotal and personal though my thoughts here may be, I'm sure I'm not the only one. That being said, buses will always be the best way for someone like me (living in the neighborhoods, and not working downtown much) to get around here, and I do enjoy riding them, even just for fun sometimes. In my experience, instances of unexpected community on a bus come more often than they do on a train. Just the other day, a guy boarded a 14 Hawthorne bus around SE 22nd, sat in the back and offered a few of us slices of the large Hot Lips pizza he brought aboard. They may happen on trains and streetcars occasionally too, but you don't come across these experiences on highways, that's for sure! The 15 Belmont bus is an interesting case, too. I sometimes take the line into Downtown Portland on weekday mornings around 7:30 AM, and I've noticed the line has a tendency to bunch quite a bit, to the point where rush hour 5 or 6-minute intervals effectively become 10 or so, and sometimes a bus or two will even pass right by stops in the 30's (near Belmont Dairy, I typically board just one stop up from that development myself) when they're full. The same thing is quite common in the afternoon rush going the other way as well, as anybody who's ever tried to catch an Eastbound 15 between 4 and 6 PM from, say, the Green Dragon at SE 7th, can tell you as they watch 2 or 3 consecutive 15s pass right by before one is able to squeeze you on. Although I've been on quite a few filled-to-the-brim MAX trains or Portland Streetcars (and let's not even mention the old Newark subway cars and PATH trains I used to regularly ride back in Jersey) in my time, I can't say I ever remember a train leaving me in the rain as "Drop Off Only"...
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May 11, 2010