Monday, November 28, 2011

The Good Guys-Honoring the Epic Drivers Who Go the Extra Mile

So lately I've been thinking. We've been hearing a lot about bus drivers who do a bad job. Okay, this isn't really a lately thing, bus drivers always seem to be under attack for some reason or another. It's a shame because it's giving them such a stigma that all bus drivers are rotten, even when it's just a small handful that admittedly are doing a less than stellar job.

And really, anyone who has ever ridden a bus with some degree of frequent attendance will tell you of at least one bus driver they remembers for a good reason. And now, I want to give them all a small bit of recognition and thanks. In the comments below, just tell everyone about an exceptional bus driver (or MAX driver, I'm not discriminative) you know or have had that made all the difference and deserve a bit of credit.

After all, drivers are the lifeblood of the system. There wouldn't be anything to ride or use without them. They deserve a little bit back.

And since I believe for some reason, true or not, that I have the power to make a mini movement out of this, spread the word! Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, all the other stuff, just send it out for people to check out! I mean, there's a possibility that trying to get this out there could be a bust but at the same time, it could work!

Just comment your story to me here, send a link to this page out, and if you're on twitter, hashtag #epicdrivers, and then pass it around! I'll be retweeting like no tomorrow and hopefully you will too. :) We share the stories of the excellent transporation drivers around the world and give them the credit and long last!

And since of course I'd be a fool not to share my own stories, I'll kick it off with five drivers I appreciate!
The first one I really remember was a nice lady named Janet, who drove everything from the 71 to the 33-Fremont (haha, remember when that was the number of the line?) to what I usually saw her on, the 15. This was the driver everyone wanted to have. She was incredibly kindhearted, struck good, real conversation with everyone, and at some points had a smorgasboard of city maps, bus schedules and maps and other city info on the tire cap thing you're not supposed to sit on in the New Flyers.

It took a few acts of random kindness for me to make the connection to the consistent meetings with Janet, but I remember them all. The first was when she snuck me an all day ticket on one ride of the 71, the second was when she handed my mother, aunt and I some of that info she had on the tire cap. The third, however, was the one I'll remember most- a great conversation. I noticed that the line 33 was taking a detour on a small street just outside of Alameda. Me being the curious mapper I am, I asked why we were turning onto Regents or whatever street that was. Her response, a loud, jubilant "Because I felt like it!" had me in stitches for a good fifteen seconds before we continued to talk. And from there I really started to like her.

I'd always recognize her by her short white hair and her banana board that she kept in the dash of the bus. We'd talk every time, too, from the ride downtown at 4 o clock I always went out of my way to catch to my stop of 106th and Cherry Blossom along line 15 about everything and anything. She was a great soul, a lively conversator and showed me how awesome bus drivers could be. She was also a nice help with my TBIP project but I didn't talk about it an overwhelming amount until I met Kristen, whom you can read about below

A second driver I remember was William, who I only rode with twice- once on line 51 and once on line 15. He had a pretty strong British (sic) accent and plenty of good conversation, mostly around the photography I fancied doing. I remember him stopping on Redondo and Hamilton for a few seconds so I could get a good picture of the area, and this was after he picked me up at Dosch and Patton and got to know me for about 5 minutes, if even. They were two experiences totaling to about an hour but they're rides I'll remember.

Then there's Kristen. Before I go on, I should regretfully mention that I'm not sure if I remembered her name right but I know it was either Kristen or something very similar to it. She was my line 27 driver during my stint at Rockwood Library who I caught both ways and perhaps the biggest reason I still mourn the defunct line along Market and Main.

Every week I'd ride with her twice and we'd chat, mainly about my ideas for the big TBIP paper I was doing that started my activism. And not only did she listen to me ramble on about my ideas and projects, she helped me out, responding in conversation, giving me suggestions and some caution and never seeming tired with my endless talking of it. Not sure where I'd be without this bus driver but I'm glad I'm here now because of her help.

And while I'm at it, while I've never actually spoken to him in person or on his bus (yet), I have to say some of my greatest heroes in my activism is Ranting Al Margullies. He's let me know that he's impressed with what I'm doing, he's given his own help, assistance and occasional correction and advice on my work, and the amazing part is that he's considered me one of his heroes. Imagine that, being a hero to one of your heroes. That's just amazing, and it's people like him who make it easier to get through hard times as an activist. It's a shame TriMet seems to dislike him so much, because I believe it's the people with unashamed, loud and brave voices like him that keep things grounded.

And then there's John Hively, a bus driver on the 15 I've mentioned before and that I owe a lot to. He was friendly right off the bat, striking thoughtful conversation with me that went past surface things and to things that really mattered to me, most notably writing, volunteering, friends and life in general. I remember after we first started talking I asked for his name by saying "Thank you, Mr..." and he responded "No need for Mister, just call me John. John the bus driver." And then we parted ways, leaving me thinking What a cool guy.

And he really was trustworthy and nonjudgmental when we talked. I told him about my efforts to volunteer and the projects I wanted to do and he encouraged me to keep at it and told me he was impressed by what I was doing. When I was having a bad day, I made my way to his bus up at Gateway and took a short ride while I vented a bit and he gave me advice on how to handle life's harder moments.

What I most remember was the encouragement, editing, advice and assistance he gave me for my writing. I wasn't that much of a writer either, just an amateur who thought he was a big shot with big ideas. He treated me like a budding author, not just a beginner, which helped me an astronomical amount. He told me to email him some of a piece I was working on, and a week or so later he offered to swing by my place and drop it off. Sure enough, same day he knocked on my door, handed me the papers, asked me a couple questions about it and bid me good day. That was simply awesome, no way around it. It was awesome.

He lent me a book called the Writer's Journey to study up on... and you know what, I never returned it after we moved. John, if you ever should be reading this, let me know and I'll get it back to you.

He also told me about a group called Young Willamette Writers, which met up once a month to learn about different types of writing. He offered to pay me through if I needed it, which I never did, but the offer alone meant so much to me. I mean, I never expected to have my biggest supporter in my budding writing career be a bus driver. But I guess it shows just how awesome they can be.

Overall, out of the bus drivers I know, he is the foremost one I would consider a friend. Because of him, I still write, and I've been told that I'm damn good at it. And I write with a passion and I want to pursue it long term. I believe that his support was what kept my light from flickering out, and it's one of the reasons I believe in the goodness of humanity overall.


And these are just some examples of bus drivers that do their jobs not only well, but to a degree that it impacts how you live and how you succeed. It's people like these who deserve credit from the public as true heroes of the more mundane side of life. People like those are what really keep it from getting too mundane.

So share your stories below, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Activist Kid's Unauthorized Guide to the Bus Series of TriMet Part 1- Defunct Series and 1400s/1600s

Hey, all! Today TriMet announced that it was deploying 55 new buses for 2012 in the hopes of replacing the crumbling remnants of what we commonly call "The 1400/1600 and 1700-1900 series." That made me reminiscent and after blazing through a number of thoughts and memories (as well as... 4, 5 Twitter conversations with Adri) I decided to make a neato little guide to the bus models and types and what to expect from them. Complete with my own photography! (when I can find any. :P)

Defunct Models

Now I can't say much about these, because I don't remember much. I do remember them, though. I remember the big long articulated ones that didn't last very long, but very very vaguely. There's one of the ones with the rounded fronts- 900 series?- that I rode on the line 9 through Concordia. There's the older short ones that looked like tin cans- very retro. What I remember very well, though, were the 500/600 series that ran all over the place. Kind of like a cross between the 1400s and 1700s. They ran up till mid to late last decade- in fact, I remember the last one I ever saw was on a line 16 during 6th grade.

A note- assuming by what could be logic, the first buses from TriMet would be the 00s or 100s. If that's true, and the system started in the 60s, does it leave anyone else disconcerted that the 500s were around till 2006?

1400 series-Gillig Phantoms

These are the oldest buses remaining on the fleet- somewhere around 20 years old, I believe. I'll always remember the sounds of their engines, always. If you've heard them, you know what I mean- kind of bleak and sorrowful but very strong as well. Weird how that works, but oddly enough I always find myself taking my headphones off and listening to the sounds of the buss.

Their readerboards are pretty hard to see, what with thin lines and faded colors, but still they work better than a good patch of the New Flyers. They also have those bus burps where they spit out a huge gray cloud when it takes off. Very unpleasant.

Inside they are usually entirely uncomfortable- a good portion of the seats are the gray and red hard plastic shell whatchamacallits. And the ones that have a 'cushion' on it (note the use of quotation marks) usually are just as bad or even worse. They're usually a half centimeter thick, almost as hard as the plastic and given just a thin glaze of felt as actual comfort. It's hard to enjoy sitting down on those buses.

Now if you're out looking for the 1400s, you'll have a challenge. They're rarely, if ever, used intentionally on bus lines anymore. They're primarily used as emergency backup for any route that needs a bus to fill in for one that's out of commission. If you're really looking for one, you'd probably find them in East County, along line 25-Glisan or 87-Airport Way/181st or something of the like. But rarely are they used willingly.

EXCEPT, if you happen to catch a City of Roses tour bus. Those have the leftover 1400s that TriMet used. Good luck trying to track one down though.

The 1600s (pretty much everything I mentioned above, but smaller), on the other hand, are the go-to bus for routes that need shorter buses (excluding Washington County, that doesn't seem to have much more than the 1700 series and some 2900s.) You'll find them in Council Crest, Gresham, Troutdale, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Wilamette, they're all over the place. Primarily, though, around Clackamas and Gresham. Every line 28-Linwood, 29-Lake/Webster, 80/81-257th Ave and 152 Milwaukie is bound to have one. It's like TriMet law.

Overall, these are a piece of nostalgia by now and will be only that by the time 2012 is over. For better or worse, though, they'll be remembered.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rebirth is Dead

^Note the irony in that title.

So yes, apparently the giant deer-baby statue above the future Park Place station in Milawukie has been 86'd. Really, I have only one response to that. PARTY!

Finally, TriMet has done something logical. That statue would have drained at least two bus lines' worth of money. But! That does leave the question on whether this money gets used for logical stuff or just more ugly sculptures. (Seriously, TriMet. If I had to say goodbye to my precious line 27 or 51 for those pieces, at least make then... not hideous.)

But that brings me to my next point- that thing was hideous. Not only hideous but freaking creepy. *shudders* It reminds me of one of those really creepy stuffed animals with the baby faces and the animal bodies. I cannot imagine walking past that towering over me- I'm pretty sure my inner child would be pretty terrified.

For better or... better, this thing is gone. Just a little bit of right in this city. Sorry to whichever artist had this in mind but... yeah, it was pretty ugly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hahaha... so yeah...

So, I haven't blogged for awhile. And I'm pretty sure I did quite a number of "Alright, guys, I'm back!" posts that usually are a beautiful segue into extended absences. So this is not an "Alright, guys, I'm back!" post. This is an "I finally feel ready to at least acknowledging that I have a (quite abandoned) blog and hey maybe I may start updating it again."

And let's leave it at that. Before I make any promises and then all of you (which is about 10 people or so) get at least somewhat expectant for more stuff from me and then I drop off the face of the planet again. Only to come back and do the whole thing all over again. ...pretty sure there's a TriMet joke in there somewhere but I can't be arsed to find it. :P

But yeah, I should start making posts every now again- I make no promises, though. I also like to think that with my gaining an admin position on a fairly large website (okay... so it's mostly gaming... and almost no one's older than 20...) my training on the dos and donts of internet conduct can be officially declared top notch. This probably means no unnecessary calling out of Joe Rose on his main twitter stream for little to no founded reason (that always leaves me with some sentimental humiliation.) So I should be somewhat more... mature, but definitely still all me here. :P

So I believe I had a project I had wanted to do this summer revolving around the best bus rides of the city. As you can probably tell... it didn't happen. The only three of the 14 or so bus lines on my list I covered were the 38, 85 and 96. And my camera wasn't saving properly so that means we're unlikely to see any of my photo blogging. I probably won't be able to hit any of the other bus lines due to the fact they mostly run rush-hour only on the far side of town from me- although I actually take the first 2 minutes of the 22 once every week so there's really no excuse for that.

What I can do, though, is just make a list from what I know now. It's not really gonna be official official but it should be generally useful; seeing as if I can't get a ride on the 50-Cedar Mill without a huge amount of effort neither will anyone who doesn't need to. I already have 3 or 4 specific bus lines in mind for this list off the top of my head, so it should be a decent list. Again, I haven't decided what to do, but odds are if I do anything, it'll probably be this.

But yeah, I may throw out a blog piece or two when I get the chance. If I get an inspired opinion... you'll see it.

Admittedly... it does feel good to be back.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday's Speech

Hello, all. I thought I'd post the text/video form of my speech on Wednesday. If I happen to run into my interview with KGW, I'll post it at a later date. I did ad lib a bit at the meeting, but hey, what else can you expect from me? ;)

Also, as soon as my camera allows, my first piece of the bus rides I've never ridden before shall be up for lines 38 and 96.



I'm Cameron Johnson. I'm a transit leader with OPAL's Bus Riders Unite! and the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. And I'd like to say one word to you, and what that one word means to me.


Change is what we're spending more and more of each year on our bus fare. Extra spare change for each trip, maybe you believe that five cents is not that bad, but it adds up to a lot of money. For people like me who use the bus multiple times every day but can't afford a pass, that extra spare change becomes real money, money that we simply don't have.

From what I hear from TriMet staff, the fares are going to keep going up as gas prices go up. But what about when gas prices come back down? Will you then lower the fares? Because we could sure use some of that spare change back.

Real change that helps those of us that depend on transit is something that doesn't seem to happen often at TriMet. Aside from all the new shiny trains and streetcars, we have the same old bus lines, the same old fare system, the same crappy bus stops, and the same old buses that should have been scrapped years ago. Look at a bus map from 2000 and one from 2011. You'll see that two things have changed: we have four new rail lines, but we lost twenty bus lines. Line 27, Line 49, Line 153? They don't exist anymore, nor does there seem to be any effort to replace them or provide new bus-focused service, like Bus Rapid Transit.
One thing that OPAL and our Bus Riders Unite! leadership are hoping to change is the way TriMet engages with its riders. We need to know and trust that you are listening to us, that you hear us, that you truly understand our needs. You may hear our frustration or sense our anger, but unless you know what it's like to be solely dependent on the bus and get crunched by all these service cuts and fare increases, not able to get where you need to go on time, with nothing in return for our loyalty of ridership, you may not understand. We tell you, but do you hear us? It doesn't appear so.

Change is what needs to happen, right here, right now at TriMet. The path we are on is headed for a cliff - you obsess over expanding rail and chasing choice riders, leave bus riders in the lurch, and threaten either service or your employees' health by positioning your union operators against your riders. All the while, we are here telling you we are bleeding, and that we have a simple, no- or low-cost proposal to inject some value back into the system. That proposal is the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. The campaign is for Change.

Because at the moment, you have the power. The power to give low-income bus riders the ability to take care of basic needs and get back home without spending even more money for less service. The power to give disenfranchised transit riders the mental breathing room so we don't have to stress about making our connections. The power to put into place an equal and fair transfer policy that doesn't put bus drivers at risk of discipline for giving extended transfers and doesn't put riders at risk of being profiled. The power to provide more incentives for everyone to ride transit more, increase your revenue, and lead us on a path to a healthier environment.

Because if you don't use the power that you have to support your transit riders who need you the most, we'll look to other decision-makers for the types of change we need. Whether you know it or not, change is going to come. I can feel it in my bones.

Video Version Here

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Subtlest Of Actions

I regret not tackling this earlier.

So, I looked on the Service Alerts today- it's Memorial Day- to see what to look forward to should I take the bus today. That, and I'm a geek and feel a need to know. I noticed that just down the street, line 19 would not be running to Lincoln Memorial due to the possibility of excessive traffic.

Now that on it own seems like an inconvenience, but take a second and think about it. What a flimsy, flimsy excuse that is to cancel service to the Memorial Cemetery.

The Memorial Cemetery.

On Memorial DAY.

Did TriMet even think about this? What they just did is prevent anyone with low income and no car from going to the cemetery.

You could say that "Oh, the bus just got cancelled. You can walk." No, really, you can't. You can't walk from the MAX station and the temporary end of line 19, both at 92nd and Flavel, up the 1+ mile to 112th and Mt. Scott Blvd. Not only is it over a mile, it's entirely uphill and sidewalk is spotty. Trust me, I live in that area. It's actually a bit closer to walk from 112th and Foster on lines 10/71, but not much better. It's on a hill and sidewalk's equally as spotty.

It should also be brought up that traffic should not be a damned excuse to prevent access to relatives of fallen veterans from accessing the memorial on Memorial Day. I'm pretty sure that relatives of veterans aren't guaranteed to be wealthy or to have a car- there's no guarantee for a new car with every application. There are a number, I'm sure, of veterans or their families, friends or associates who take or rely on the bus. That's just common knowledge. I don't care if it's 10 people or 100 people, you shouldn't be preventing this right from people who have sacrificed so much. It's a slap to the face!

And it's not like there's nothing you can do. If traffic's a problem you have options, that you should consider for next year.

1) Run a shuttle. This is often done in the case of a drastic situation where a reroute is necessary, whether short term or long term, i.e. a weekend MAX closing or the closing of the Marine Drive bridge. Keep the line 19 routing as you have it from where and run a shuttle along the busy parts between Lincoln Memorial and Flavel Street MAX station. That way it's only the shuttle with a screw schedule and line 19 gets off without any late schedules. And really, a shuttle with some unreliability is better than no access at all. If you can do it for MAX, you can do it for Veterans who ride the bus.

2) Reroute. If you were to suck it up and route line 19 to the cemetery, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Or in this case, more than one route to take. Maybe 112th is less busy than Flavel, and you could use that to wrap around to the route in some way. Better yet, there's a back thoroughway along Knapp/105th between 105th/Mt. Scott and just past I-205 and Flavel/Mt. Scott Blvd. It's a straight thoroughfare for the most part- no intersections, no sidewalk, no surrounding houses or buildings between the start and the merge to 105th ave. It's a wide, usable street that you could at the very least utilize for that one day. That easily cuts off half the routing. Heck, you may, just may be able to make a deal with the Memorial Cemetery to borrow one of their roads- probably if you're just going to do a small shuttle. But there are many ways you could do it in routing as well.

Bottom line, this shouldn't have happened. This little reroute takes away so much. Traffic shouldn't be a reason to cut off something so important and necessary, especially since those who are visiting the cemetery have already probably suffered, one way or another, through a loss to get there. And now we won't even let them get there? It's maddening!

Overall, though, this planning and rerouting may not be necessary. I passed Flavel/Mt. Scott twice today. I saw next to no traffic- not at 1:30pm, not at 4:30pm.


Monday, May 9, 2011

You Cannot Take This From Us

*Warning-for those of you who are offended, this blog entry does consist of a 16 year old using some language that would be found in a PG13 movie. I assure you that if felt any weaker about this the language would be gone.*

I'm reading about the bus pass debacle and taking them away from teens. The idea. Pisses. Me. Off.

You see, as teens, we are an undermined society. We are ignored often, and when people consider us, it's when they want to bitch about us or verbally crucify the whole generation as a whole. You often hear stories about how teens screwed up royally (I love how people bitch less about Charlie Sheen getting prostitutes, screwing his family up, doing drugs and drinking and being in total madness and denial about it than they do about so and so teen personality getting pregnant by accident.) We are categorized entirely as a generation who doesn't give a tenpenny fuck about tomorrow, their family or others; just getting drunk, high and pregnant. Guys are douchebags and girls are whores. It may not be that 'out there' blatant as that but media is pretty much subtly doing that with shows on The CW where 20 somethings play slutty teens partying. And if I see one more commercial where the teenager does nothing but smart off behind a phone, I'm going to break my TV with an axe. I'm sorry if this offends you, but this is me being perfectly frank about it.

Apart from that, no one cares. You'll see in the news about how a teen drove his parents' car into the lake right next to the house (read as-entirely a family situation) blasted out to half the nation as, if I were a conspiracy theorist, propaganda on how useless and scourge teens are, but you don't oft hear anything about teens doing good. Pretty much every teen I know is tons different than what people assume of us. In my community center, there's just such a tightknit community of intelligent, funny, caring people. And it's not a Portland thing; over the internet I've met some of the most incredible people I've ever seen; remarkable, talented artists and people who will treat you like they've known you all their life. It's just stunning.

And I'd like to state, first, that the Youth Pass program was never suggested by a council of lawmakers or politicians. The only reason it even started is because of the Multnomah Youth Commission, a group of teenagers who care about the city and work on a commission with a direct line of advisor to the mayor. I met them once repping for the Mt. Scott Teen Force, and my friend Daniel is a member of the group.

They're the ones who put all the hard work into the campaign. They didn't stop at the limited version (Jefferson and Franklin only or people who had limited income or lived basically next door to school), they got the commissions and board with actual power to approve it and they, to quote PPS transportation director Andy Liebengurth, "Really Spearheaded the whole thing." You see, politicians don't really know what it's like to travel across town on the bus every day and have to pay for it, and most of the time not have any other option because they can't drive, or to have to pay for it every day. But the teens did. And they spoke up. And by God, people listened.

And now, it seems, the adults who didn't really know as much, caught on. And now they're going to try to put a stop to it.

The person who's considering ending the Portland Public School Youth Pass program is State Rep. Tobais Reed... who lives in BEAVERTON. He states that it needs to be "More important than days of school." Dude. Without this, a crapton of people won't be GETTING to school. Did you think of that? I know things are nicer in Beaverton, but spend a few days in Creston or Lents and say with a straight face that people don't 'need' this. Or, maybe, try taking the bus.

Katherine Westmoreland of the MYC says it best- "I think it’d be taken a lot more seriously if it was 13,000 voters that were going to have free bus passes taken away." Precisely. The people trying to take this away from us aren't going to hear us because when they put it to vote- guess what? Teens don't get to vote. We don't have a choice. That brings the question- why can't we vote? Because all hell would break loose if we let those goddamned weed-smoking drunk uncaring texting Bieber-loving teens out on the polls and gave them an ounce of control on the nation? By your theory, if we don't care as the general teen public... open the polls! The supposed few that care would have a miniscule voice and the worthless ones wouldn't bother cos they're too busy watching "Friday." But, hey, we care. Let us have a voice, or at listen to the quiet one we have now.

It all comes down to getting people to HEAR us and UNDERSTAND us. And I don't even get a free bus pass; I'm homeschooled. It's hard for us to pay for a bus pass. With our financial situation, my family can't afford it and I take my $60 dollar monthly OPAL check and pay for the $26 dollar bus pass. Add in a $25 dollar phone bill and I get a grand total of $9 bucks to spend throughout the month. Which is pretty much emergency funds, so, yeah, I got zilch. I've almost finished my schooling so there's no getting one now. I think there may be some financial solutions on the horizon but until then, yeah, I got nothing.

And that's going to be the case for teens in the city if we take this away; just another huge gape in either their wallets or their parents. For low-income people, it's just not going to work. People aren't as eager to take them away from businesses, so why from schools?

If you truly care, you will not take this from us. Especially when we got no choice in the matter.

The Best Bus Rides in the City

Hey, all! I thought this would be a good place to announce a leisurely project.

I've ridden a good 75% percent of the bus lines in the city. Since I did photography awhile back, I went all over the place on all sorts of lines. But I wanted to review what the best bus rides in the city are, and in order to do that, I need to ride them all.

There's a small list of bus lines I haven't tackled, so over the summer, I'm going to tackle them as best I can and photoblog it as well, if all goes well. When I've ridden them all, then I'm going to re-ride the best ones and report on those as well. Sort of a big, unique project, that's a lot less stress than the activism (don't get me wrong, that's rewarding too, but this will be a return to my more carefree roots.)

So here's a list of bus lines I've never ridden or haven't ridden much of.

16-Front Avenue/St. Johns (This is gonna be a hell of a doozy, because the bridge on Marine shut down. Therefore, I'll have to tackle this on the 16 itself and the Marine Drive shuttle.)



30-Estacada ( wanna catch the express- boy that's gonna be a complicated trip but from what I hear well worth it)

38-Boones Ferry Road

45-Garden Home (I've actually ridden all of this except the Tigard portion)

46-North Hillsboro


50-Cedar Mill

65-Marquam Hill/Barbur

84-Kelso/Boring (...yeah... good luck with that one)

89-Tanasbourne (Upper Portion)

92-South Beaverton Express



So, yeah, that's the complete phase one list... this is gonna be pretty hard. But worth it! I can claim my title now! XD

Give any thoughts and ideas if so wished!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday's Speech Two Ways

Hello, all. I just thought I'd post my speech. It's too soon to tell how I did or what impact it had but I'll post it here in print and video for those interested.

Hello, I am Cameron Johnson, I'm sixteen years old, and along with my fellow comrades from OPAL's Bus Riders Unite! leadership team, I am here to speak about our Campaign for a Fair Transfer, as well as giving a voice to bus riders across the region.

It is crucial that you, the TriMet Board, hear us and respond to issues that we feel are important. I have been testifying before this Board for a while, and I don't feel like it has any impact on your policies or decisions. I come here to testify not to win compliments, but because I want to make a difference.

Outside of this room, I am part of something larger. When I speak at an OPAL event or rally, I feel I can motivate my fellow transit riders, and it's a powerful feeling that stays with you. We at OPAL dedicate ourselves to motivating people into action, and we've awakened transit riders with our Campaign for Fair Transfer. Transit riders want and need a three hour fare. Transit riders have been asked to bear the burden of service cuts and fare increases, and they need something back to make the system work for them again. Transit riders are willing and ready to stand up and take action to win this policy change.

We currently have over 1,750 names and signatures of transit riders on petitions to support our Campaign for a Fair Transfer. Our goal is 3,500 signatures, and we will be back here every month with more and more people who support our campaign.

TriMet can come up with any number of financial projections for why this isn't a good idea or why we can't afford it. Your job is to tell them to go back to the drawing board and figure out how we can. It's about priorities, and putting the resources where it's going to help the most people and the neediest people. Don't tell us you can't afford it when you are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the latest streetcar or MAX project.

When OPAL has thousands and thousands of people supporting this campaign, telling you loud and clear that this is something we want, something we need, you are going to have to wake up and listen. We are the lifeblood of the transit system; we are the ones that support the system and this agency day in and day out. We don't opt out of taking the bus or MAX because we're feeling lazy, or because it's raining, or because we're busy and running late. We ride the system every single day.

The Campaign for a Fair Transfer is a solution developed by the people, for the people. And it's not just for us, those that depend on transit. This campaign is for everyone. More and more people will have more confidence in transit and will start riding the bus and MAX, and we will all benefit from increased ridership and increased farebox revenue. We're doing this for everyone, you included. The survival of our transit agency depends on it. We're not looking for a free hand out, and we don't want to fight with you, we want to work with you. But in order to work together, we need to know that you hear us and are accountable. Otherwise our next campaign may be to elect a board that will.

And the youtube link. As usual, all credits go to Al M and Jason McHuff for the video. Also, kudos to my comrades Nancy and Teresa for their good work!



Monday, April 25, 2011

Wednesday's Anticipation

Hey guys, I can explain.

Apparently computer related technology hates me for the most part and it just now is starting to apologize. One computer stopped working, then it did, then it lost internet, then it came back, then I switched computers, then that shut down, and then we gave it to a relative, and now I'm back here.

But yeah, I thought I'd talk about Wednesday. That's when we approach the TriMet board with the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. And I have a feeling this is going to be a great speech. I give thanks to Jon Ostar of OPAL for collaborating a bit with me, ironing out the edges and adding a point or two I totally agree with and wanted to speak of anyway (but forgot to add in the draft.) I'd post it here, but you don't ruin anticipation or suspense. It's going to be great and I'm hyped.

I'm going to try and update this at least once a week but that's only if this computer co-operates with me. I want to incorporate some chiller articles into this, and take a bit more serious direction as well without losing the quirky factor I've lovingly constructed. ;)



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Arriving Back.

Hey all! I bet you've noticed I haven't posted a blog piece in forever. And that I've also stayed away from transit sites. Well I have a couple good reasons.

1) My computer was down for awhile... and is actually down again. I'm using my parents' computer at the moment, but usually I haven't much in the internet access otherwise.

2) When I had my computer I had a strong urge to start writing again, and that took up 90% of the time I spent on my computer. It's going well, I'm glad to say.

So yeah, that explains that. I'm hoping to start working on a blog post over the next day or two, maybe by the end of the week it will be posted... of course there's always the chance that I totally slack off for the next month. Which I'm going to make sure doesn't happen, but then again, I haven't been uber reliable lately.

As for the board meetings, I had schedule conflicts over March and February I used my speech for the kickoff and didn't leave one for the board meeting. I was bummed about March. I had a speech in mind too. -_-

Hoping to see you all soon!


Monday, February 14, 2011

We Start our Campaign!

As of now, all I'm gonna do is copypasta the press release and maybe blog later. Totally excited though- Thanks!


February 14th, 2011
Contact: Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Co-Director
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
(503) 512-0490 / /

Bus Riders Call on TriMet General Manager and Board to
Extend Transfer Time to 3 Hours

Portland, OR. On February 21st, 2011, OPAL’s Bus Riders Unite! Leadership Team, representing transit-dependent riders and communities, will formally kick-off the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. The current transfer time for both bus (one hour from the end of the route) and MAX (two hours from fare purchase) is insufficient and inadequate to meet basic needs of transit-dependent workers and families. Bus Riders Unite! calls upon TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, TriMet Board President Rick Van Beveran and the other TriMet Board Members to approve a policy change to extend all daytime transfers to 3 hours and through the end of evening service for all boardings after 7:00 PM.

Extending the transfer time will increase TriMet’s farebox revenue by further encouraging ridership, particularly during off-peak hours when underemployed families and evening workers depend on transit the most. On the heels of the 10th TriMet fare increase in 10 years and the elimination of over 170,000 hours of basic service in the past two years, Bus Riders Unite! campaign continues to draw attention to the disproportionate impacts borne by transit-dependent riders from our most underrepresented and vulnerable communities: low-income people, people of color, those with disabilities and limited-mobility, and both our youth and senior riders. Bus Riders Unite! demands an affordable, reliable and accessible public transportation system that works for all riders in the Portland region, which is true sustainability.

WHAT: Campaign for a Fair Transfer Kickoff
WHEN: Monday, February 21st 6:00-7:00 PM
WHERE: St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church 1131 SE Oak (Bus #70)
WHY: OPAL’s Bus Riders Unite! members call on TriMet for an extended transfer time of 3 hours for all daily boardings and through the end of service for boardings after 7:00 PM.

“10 fare increases in 10 years have put bus passes out of reach for many individuals and families experiencing poverty or underemployment, including many riders from communities of color. More and more of our community members who rely on public transportation are forced to purchase single-fare tickets and rely on transfers to to get to work, school, the doctor, the grocery store. TriMet policy needs to support its riders to be able to meet their basic needs.”
- Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, OPAL Co-Director.

“With increased headways – longer waiting times between buses – and more overcrowded buses, service is less reliable and bus riders struggle to meet their basic needs, having to purchase additional single-trip fares at greater expense for less service.”
- Teresa Soto de Roman, OPAL Bus Riders Unite! Leadership Team member.

“The current TriMet transfer policy is both confusing and arbitrary, allowing for unequal transfers for bus riders and MAX riders – bus riders get just one hour on weekdays from the end of their trip as determined by the bus driver, while MAX riders get two hours from purchase.” - Jonathan Ostar, OPAL Co-Director and Staff Attorney.

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon is a 501(c)(3) community-based organization working to empower low-income communities and communities of color through direct action and grassroots organizing. By developing leadership from within communities most impacted by local environmental and socioeconomic decision-making, OPAL works to promote environmental and social justice and sustainable, healthy communities. OPAL also co-chairs and facilitates the Transportation and Health Equity Network, comprised of regional partners working on issues of transportation and health equity.

Campaign for a Fair Transfer Endorsements (as of 2/14):
Portland Jobs with Justice, Portland Youth and Elders Council, Urban League of Portland, ROSE Community Development, Verde, VOZ Workers Rights, Upstream Public Health, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Josiah Hill III Clinic, Central City Neighborhood Association (Gresham), Alliance for Democracy.

Related Web Sources
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon Website
PolicyLink, The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Healthy, Equitable Transportation Reform
Final 2010 TriMet Service Cuts
Transit Riders for Public Transportation
Transportation for America
More Transit = More Jobs, Sept 2 Report of Transportation Equity Network

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Updated Board Speech

Hello. I'm Cameron Johnson, 16 year old bus rider WITH OPAL's BUS RIDERS UNITE! CAMPAIGN. However, this time I am not speaking just for OPAL Bus Riders Unite. I'm speaking for everyone who is even the slightest involved with TriMet. Because it's no longer JUST Riders or JUST Union members.

Recently a letter was released from General Manager McFarlane to the Union regarding the LOOMING health CARE debacle. In the form of a veiled threat stated that if the workers didn't comply to the new healthcare, that TriMet would execute another $10,000,000 in service cuts. Now I'm sure that I'm not the only one who thinks this sounds like a devious threat.

Think about it. It's borderline extortion. If the Union were to still press on for their benefits, TriMet would open up the trapdoor on Bus Riders, and be able to say “If only your bus drivers had only complied to our terms, then you would not have suffered.” Then everyone's going to go up in arms against the drivers and the union.

But if riders go up in arms about this, the Union will see this as a force to concede and swallow the pill of a harsh blow to their benefits, then the riders are spared, but the drivers are going to have the riders to blame for their suffering.

Or it could go neither way. The Union presses on, riders get cut, and then they still screw over the drivers in the end. Then everyone's fighting with everyone. What you are forcing in this really cruel negotiation ploy will all but end in a riot. In some places, There's already an unfortunate schism between the general public and bus drivers

Don't tell me for an INSTANT that you can't get 10 million anywhere else. Do I need to bring up over-the-top salaries? Massive planning and consultants into future capital projects? Advertising “WES Works!” on buses in Gresham? ALSO, HOW ABOUT THAT YOU ACTUALLY SPEND MONEY PLAYING CLASSICAL MUSIC ON THE MAX? I mean, I'd much rather know my bus works than a train I'll probably never ride which never works anyways.

My point is, instead of fessing up and being responsible, you're starting to blind the riders and drivers of TriMet into fighting each other while hiding the fact that the only culprit here is you. You need to realize what your riders and drivers are worth. They are your backbone. They are your profit. It's high time that you took a moment and tried to benefit them instead of screwing them all over in one fell sweep when there are so many other ways you can get $10 million. We all do so much for you. Isn't it time you really did something for us?

Anyway, will upload my Twitter coverage of the meeting later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Service Horses?

There's buzz around TriMet allowing miniature service horses on buses. You know... cause there's no news around. I read this and thought "Oh my god this will ruin bus riding! NO NO NO NO NO!"

Why, you ask? Well first, can you imagine service HORSES on the bus? I mean, everyone's gonna bring their miniature horse farm and carry them around on the bus and pass them off as service horses! You know... cause everyone has a miniature horse in Portland. We're second in miniature horse per capita, right after that town in Alaska that has 4 people.

Second, can you imagine how the safety would be affected by this change? I can just envision nightmares of miniature horses eating people's faces off! What if they bring in guns and hold us up? We need to bring in safer service animals, like rotweillers and stoners.

Third, if service horses are allowed on the bus, that's total discrimination against other service animals! Now my friend won't be able to bring her service flamingo! What about service crocodiles or service armadillos? TriMet is just a bunch of speciesists!

So overall, this is the worst idea that TriMet's ever had. Worse than 4 service cut rounds back to back. Worse than the billions poured into Milwaukie MAX. Worse than ANYTHING worse than that!

So let's start riots against this! I'll get my pitchforks, you get your torches and flamethrowers.

It just makes me sad

You know what's been troubling me? The Sandi Day trial. And let me tell you why.

It's unnecessary and rather painful.

Why is it unnecessary? Because in retrospect, it doesn't matter who did it. If Sandi Day was at fault, however unintentional it may be, she lost her job. And not only that, she's going to have to live with that night for the rest of her life, whether she was at fault or not.

And this trial is just lengthening her suffering, and the victim's loved ones as well. I mean, having to constantly talk about it and argue and seek vengeance for the victims and just relive that horrible nights. It's getting personal even. And for what? So that they can get $20,000,000 from TriMet. I mean, I know nothing is worse than a loss of life. But if you're asking for that much (especially out of a company that even if doing it wrong, is trying to fix its mistakes and its budget), you better be putting that toward charity, memorials or research, something meaningful, or that just strikes me as near selfishness.

My heart aches for all of you, it hurts to think about the pain you're going through. The worst I'm going through at the moment are a couple of beloved friends moving, and that is painful in itself. I can't even begin to imagine what it'd be like to lose a life. Death frightens me more than anything.

And Every time David Sale takes the stand at a board meeting, I nearly cry. His passion is unmatched. But why take it out on the person who may have done it, who is already going to serve a life sentence for the unfortunate happening. It kills me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Next Board Meeting Speech-Please Give Advice! My Guts Need It!

Well, I finished my board meeting speech, already, yes, I know. But as I wrote it, I realized I was being pretty hard-hitting. Part of me thinks TriMet needs it but I don't wanna kick TriMet in the balls or anything, just splash water on them to wake them up.

Anyway, here we go. I'd appreciate advice and your opinion to make sure I'm not booted out or anything.

Hello. I'm Cameron Johnson, 16 year old bus rider. However, this time I am not speaking just for OPAL Bus Riders Unite. I'm speaking for everyone who is even the slightest involved with TriMet. Because it's no longer JUST Riders or JUST Union members.

Recently a letter was released from McFarlane to the Union regarding the health debacle. Pretty much flat out it stated that if the workers didn't comply to the new healthcare, that TriMet would execute another $10,000,000 in service cuts. Now I'm sure that I'm not the only one who thinks this sounds like a devious threat.

Now this is just too sneaky to sound like a mistake. Think about it. It's near blackmail. If the Union were to still press on for their benefits, TriMet would open up the trapdoor on Bus Riders, and be able to say “If only your bus drivers had only complied to our terms, then you would not have suffered.” Then everyone's going to go up in arms against the drivers and the union.

But if riders go up in arms about this, the Union will see this as a force to concede and swallow the pill of crappy benefits, then the riders are spared, but the drivers are going to have the riders to blame for their suffering.

Or it could go neither way. The Union presses on, riders get cut, and then they still screw over the drivers in the end. Then everyone's fighting with everyone. What you are forcing in this Hobson's Choice will all but end in a riot.

Don't tell me for an INSTANT that you can't get 10 million anywhere else. You say you have to replace the oldest buses in the fleet. Well tough luck, that should have taken place before you even made a vote about it, a vote, I may add, wouldn't even have gone towards new buses in the first place, rather operation costs to fill in your prior mistakes. And how do we even know it was going to operation costs, and not the MAX? I'm sure those old people on the poster you flaunted for the measure are thrilled to hear that.

Also you need money for the MAX Line. Cause you know the billion you gave last month wasn't enough. I know I pick on the MAX line a lot, but there's no way you can honestly tell me to my face that a loss of $10,000,000 would make it impossible to build the MAX. At most your shelters would have to go without glittery tiles.

My point is, instead of fessing up and being responsible, you're starting to blind everyone who rides or drives in TriMet into fighting each other while hiding the fact that the only culprit here is you. All because you're too miserly to spend $10 million on your employees. You need to realize what these people are worth. They are your backbone. They are your profit. They are what keeps your resume solid or keeps your budget higher than ours. It's high time that you took a moment and tried to benefit them instead of screwing them all over in one fell sweep. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar. I've tried to give you plenty of honey, but we're desperate for something sweet.

Just please...consider.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Took a look at the rules, or procedures for public testimony.

Me dun likey

1. There's 2 pages of rules. That's a lot!

2. They seriously can't spare more than an hour to listen to all their riders? >_>

3. And they're also going to tell us not to be repetitious? Uhm, I don't like that a lot. They're telling us how to speak? Most of us are smart enough to know that. And what if our speech is deemed repetitious? Mike cut?

4. It's just... why so much?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Honest-to-God fact and opinion on WES (Part one of a series)

So, you may all get the appearance that I set fire to anyone who likes the idea of capital projects. While I don't like that most of them cost an arm and a leg, or more literally, thousands of arms and legs, I do think at least one of them are good ideas in concept. So I'm going to list a few past, present and future Capital Projects, in the order of date. I'm going to start late, with WES. So yeah this isn't going to start too great, but there is going to be some insight.

So let's get started.

WES Commuter Rail (2009)

In everyone's honest opinion, this project is probably the least successful of TriMet's to date. I'm going to do some math, to see how long till we break even on WES, hypothetically. You may say it's quite an estimate, but you get the idea.

The WES in construction cost $166 million. Taking into account the probable 60/40 that the Federal and Trimet puts toward it most of the time, respectively, that's about $64,000,000. That's no Milwaukie Light rail, for sure, but it's got nowhere near the projected payoff.

The ridership so far is 1700 a month on average at the moment. $1700 X 2.35 X 52 weeks a year. This equals $207,740 a month.

You may ask, remember tax revenue? Well, revenue on passenger price is 22% of the total revenue. For Payroll Taxes they make 49%. (If you're curious, the rest is from other sources and state/federal grants. So Tax funds is 2.23 times passenger funds. This is an additional $463,260 a year. And 20 cents. Amounting to a total of $671,000 a year. And 20 cents. So get ready for this- without taking other factors like operating costs and some bonus revenue they might ever get, it will take 95 years to pay this off, and that's just the TriMet part of the deal.

And also consider this, by at LEAST 2050 I'm expecting floating cars and shoes that tie themselves, so by then surely we'll have something to easily outdate WES. Unless we, I dunno, make it a museum. By which we'll surely make more money than we do now. So, yeah, read this as point said- making a profit on WES- never gonna happen. I may be missing a crucial detail, but I'm rather certain I've examined all nooks and crannies. Also, there's the issue of people being annoyed by the horn during early morning. Not exactly the way I'd wake up, but they're working on that.

So, yeah. The main problem, and by far the biggest problem, is that $64,000,000 just went down the drain for $600,000 a year. But to be fair, this is really time saving for the people who use it right, saving at least a two hour trip without it from Wilsonville to Beaverton to about 30 minutes. Not bad. Cause I'm sure that's what a large portion are doing.

From Wilsonville to Portland, it may be faster, due to the times of line 96 which, if the conditions are right, equal about an hour. So does WES. However, odds are, there's traffic. It is I-5 after all. So yeah, WES and MAX are a better bet. I mean, it doesn't make up for the giant hill in the budget it left us with, but if we have it, we're making a little bit of profit off of it even past operation cards, and destroying it would just eliminate that tiny bit of profit not to mention cost millions in itself, we may as well enjoy it. And it has its pros. It makes it easier to get around.

So yeah, this is a classic example of "This was a waste of money but we can't change it so we may as well use it." Like buying a Wii instead of a couch and at least playing a Wii on the floor. Or selling the Wii and then getting the couch. But it's not like we can sell a huge diesel train and its tracks to anyone else.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to tackle the MAX Green Line. I do have a question that's bamboozling me. This is a copypasta from the April Green line statistics

MAX Green Line
Weekday trips averaged 19,600
Weekend trips averaged 24,700

Now does this mean that on Weekdays

The answer is probably gonna induce a facepalm but I wanna get the facts right. Anyway, I hope to get started soon. As in, not procrastinating this to death.