Friday, November 2, 2012

Cast The Dark Knight Trilogy with Well Known TriMet Power Players

It's sort of a funny idea I came up with while bugging TriMet in one of their Facebook posts. I was thinking we could take the characters from Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy and match up TriMet CEOs, board members, activists and other well known people involved in TriMet's current state of affairs.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, no worries, I'll give you a sentence bio on the characters as we go. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, MORE THAN LIKELY.

Benevolent Figures!

Batman- the big hero, vigilante of billionaire Bruce Wayne who fights crime at night armed with high tech weapons.
Bruce Wayne- the man behind Batman. Benevolent billionaire of Wayne Enterprises, orphaned as a kid, seen as a playboy and power figure. Still carries scars of past traumatic events.

Actually played by: Christian Bale
My pick:

Alfred- Batman's British butler, mentor and father figure. Loyal as can be until he feels compelled to leave when Bruce won't give up Batman.

Actually played by: Michael Caine
My pick:

Lucius Fox- Batman's weapon maker. Calm, collected guy because he is in fact Morgan Freeman.

Actually played by: Morgan Freeman
My pick:

Rachel Dawes- Bruce's old flame. Leaves him because of the dangers of his role as Batman but they remain friendly, although Bruce still had feelings for her. Is killed by the Joker in movie two.

Actually played by: Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhall
My pick:

Selina Kyle/Catwoman- Cat burglar. Steals primarily from the rich, including Bruce. A wild card, constantly snarky but still more or less benevolent.

Actually played by: Anne Hathaway
My pick:

Jim Gordon- Police Chief/Commissioner of the Gotham Police Department. While dealing with an often corrupt force, he works for the greater good although will play underhanded for the safety of the city if needed.

Actually played by: Gary Oldman
My pick:

John Blake- New detective of the Gotham Police Department. Starts during TDKR and grows in rank until Bane's attack. Works as a makeshift vigilante to ensure the safety of the city. Courageous and tenacious, if not a bit hotheaded.

Actually played by: Joseph Gordon Levitt
My pick: Back off, that's me.

Ra's Al Ghul- Now to be fair I haven't seen the first movie in a long time so I'm not sure what he is other than the big leader of an evil underground clan of killers or something...

Actually played by: Liam Neeson
My pick: Neil McFarlane, as much as it pains me for him to take on a Liam Neeson role.

The Joker- An agent of chaos, who will do anything in order to terrorize the city. Is definitely bat shit crazy.

Actually played by: Heath Ledger

Bane- Powerful, muscular being with a mask and very epic voice. Is surprisingly eloquent and highly intelligent, although not acting on his own accord. Works to create organized chaos in the city by taking it over and creating class warfare.

Actually played by: Tom Hardy
My pick:

Harvey Dent- A brilliant district attorney who restored hope to the city as a figure of justice and righteousness, until he is injured by fire at the same time his then-girlfriend, Rachel Dawes, is murdered by the Joker. This turns him into a twisted villain who starts to murder every corrupt cop on the Police Force.

Actually played by: Aaron Eckhart
My pick:

Talia- A businesswoman who works a merger with Bruce Wayne (in more ways than one, hue hue hue). Eventually is revealed to be Ra's Al Ghul's daughter who used Bane to take over Gotham City in her father's place.

Actually played by: Marion Cottilard
My pick:

So as you can see, I really don't know who is who yet. :P So that's up to you! Make your picks, if you're fans. If not, at least this busted on my own blog. XD


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Improptu Meeting With Beth DeHamel Where We Discuss How Low My Credibility Is.

So, you'll never guess what happened to me today. Beth DeHamel, the Executive Finance Director of TriMet, aka the number two person in charge, actually attacked my credibility and integrity on the way out of the meeting.

It went down something like this. Note that I'm not going to use the exact phrases being said because I don't remember them all word for word, just very specific points of conversation. I'm not going to put words in anyone's mouth just to make me look good. Besides, the last thing I want to do is give her room to justify herself. And considering this happened in a public place (in fact, in front of and involving other people) there is certainly nothing wrong with me posting it here. Although knowing TriMet's policies, they'll certainly have an excuse to use.

Meeting is over, I'm glad it's done, I'm looking forward to getting out of there. Ms. DeHamel calmly walks over, I politely if not somewhat tersely say "Hello."

She asks if I've read the budget message.

I read through the short version of the budget, where it talks about what they're going to do in FY13 with a lovely little page or two about how wrong OPAL is and how smart TriMet is. But she says 'budget message', not 'budget' so I ask "Can you tell me what exactly that is?"

Immediately she jumps to the conclusion that I did not read the budget when I did, we all at OPAL did and we talked about it. She says that I was either wrong or lying about various things I said in my speech, and as if disappointed says that such lies hurts 'my credibility' and that I should let Jon or Jared speak about it so I don't lower their credibility. She says that she has spent hundreds of hours (that may just be a teensy bit of an overexaggeration, don't you think? 100 hours is five seasons of an average TV show, do you mean to tell me you've spent that much time in the span of seven months talking with Jon and Jared about the budget?) talking with them and that maybe they don't know anything after all. She offers to meet up with me on the ninth and 'talk about it' (as if she's just a stern teacher lecturing her student) and I tell her I'll think about it.

Then we both leave, I meet up with OPAL, we group up outside and talk to a guy who wants to be a member of OPAL. Then guess who buts in talking to Jared, our super smart legal guy? Beth DeHamel. I don't catch much of it this time (not my convo) so I just stand around backing him up like us OPAL members do. But it's about me. And then she mentions me. It goes on for a little longer, then eventually she leaves. Then we leave.

Now first off, let me just say that I am not offended. For one, this is just a beautiful, classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Like, if you are the lady in charge of the budgetary process of TriMet, I am not very impressed. There is nothing that neon-signs 'bullshit' than the fiscal processes of TriMet.

In fact, I'm more or less star-struck. Honored, even. The fact that the number two person in charge of TriMet would really pull me over- twice!- to tell me that my credibility was lowered by lies and that I lowered the credibility of OPAL (RIGHT IN FRONT OF OPAL, MAY I ADD) with those lies. Like, I was kind of giddy when I left the building; ask anyone from OPAL who was with me. I was dancing on benches and shit. I am really, really getting to these people. I'm annoying and offending them and hurting their feelings. Imagine that. Hurting TriMet's feelings.

Although, I'm not so sure TriMet should be proud of their Number Two executive. To go up to a bus rider and falsely tell them that they're full of shit when they're so clearly not, that's not a very nice way of representing your agency, is it? I can't go up to Neil McFarlane and tell him to go suck donkey dick or something of the sort when I'm wearing an OPAL T-shirt, because that would be really discrediting OPAL, who prefers to take a more pacifistic approach to TriMet. I'd say DeHamel was discrediting TriMet, but what is there to credit right now? In an agency where a bus driver gets fired off a false story and yet the general manager gets to screw over all his drivers and riders daily, I'd say DeHamel is a saint.

And honestly, what was there much to lie about? I simply did a synopsis on what the General Manager had done to his riders and drivers, straight out of the newspaper, and accused the board of not caring enough to stop him. I even finished with a nice little statement of people power and how they're the ones that truly care. Furthermore, this speech was worked on and approved by Jon Ostar, a chairperson and founder of OPAL. In fact, he helped me re-write my speech because what I did want to say was way too hateful and spiteful to give to TriMet on their behalf.

I kind of wish I had stuck with the original now. Not because I worry I really am lowering OPAL's credibility (which I don't and certainly don't want to, which is why I'm toning it down.) Because I'd love to see just how offended Miss DeHamel would be if I said this. LET ME CLARIFY, THIS IS NOT ON BEHALF OF OPAL. THIS IS ME AND ONLY ME. And I can see why they wouldn't want me blaring this to the board.

"Frankly, I believe you the board are all disgracing the organizations and places you are coming from. You are absolutely useless, because you are no longer any sort of unique presence in the room. Any backbone in the board has left with Lehrbach, and now you are simply here to shut down the public and submit to anything Macfarlane says, when if you were in our situation you’d certainly protest against it. The only time I ever hear any of you speak is if you take personal offense to anything we say." (Lolirony) "Let me tell you this, board members. I am very offended by the lack of care you take with us, the canned lies and responses you feed us and the wrongful actions you let Macfarlane get away with even though you are the only ones who stop him.
As far as I am concerned you condone and support every lie he tells, every wrongdoing he commits and every action he takes against his own people. You are against the public... "

I think several TriMet members would shit holes in their pants if I had told them this in my outside voice.

And you know what? I say that because I am fed up. I'm fed up with TriMet's management and their lack of transparency and accountability, and the fact that they really don't seem to care because they have the power. But what I'm really upset about was exactly what I talked to Ms. DeHamel about when I ended the conversation between us.

"I am really disappointed that the only time those of you with power at TriMet ever bother to speak with a rider is when you are personally offended."

And I'll say this. I'm pretty offended too, Ms. DeHamel.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sunsets- a piece of MAX fiction

So! I decided that I was going to post a story I wrote that involved the use of public transportation. It takes place on the MAX in the Robertson Tunnel. It's pretty dark, but I'm proud of it. I wrote this piece dedicated to a friend of mine quite similar to the girl in this story. It's really a testament to the idea of belief and challenging what we know. Of course, I had to make it semi-depressing. *shrugs* Enjoy!

It’s nice to be home, I’d suppose. It really has been much too long, especially for someone who never truly planned to stay away, and never really has. Two months have passed since I boarded the plane. Maybe longer. I can’t quite say. Time seems irrelevant by now. I know I left in the spring and returned just as Portland begrudgingly accepted another state of weather besides rain. Summer’s here but I don’t feel particularly bright, nor should I really.

I decide to take the light rail home from the airport. I can’t bear to think of driving or taking a taxi, in all honesty. I can’t get the image out of my head, a burning SUV fallen off the beaten path, two bodies tangled amid the ruins. One of the bodies belonged to my older sister Lauren, the other her best friend. Somehow I know it’s all by chance of freak accidents, but I can’t convince myself to take the risk.

The first stretch has me as anxious as the whole trip has made me, with looming paranoia beating around the corners of my mind. It’s incredibly silly, but I suppose I can’t be blamed if I feared the plane from Indianapolis could crash at any moment, or if the taxi to the plane would be sidelined by a semi. Even now, I worry that an electric current from the wires sustaining the train will find its way to my seat and turn me into a charred corpse, and I admit shamelessly that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to see another burn victim without collapsing into hysterics.

I’ve noticed that after someone dies, your opinion of them increases, and the same can be said for me. All the petty fights we’ve had, the miles of distance between us, the required phone calls all seem to disappear into the memories of us on our grandparents’ farm in Northern Idaho, of chasing goats, gathering eggs and throwing stones into the murky Clearwater River.

Memories that are so sweet still have the pain of fire in my mind, and so I drown them out with a stream of sounds from my Mp3 player, not caring exactly what I hear as long as it doesn’t play up on my emotions. With a smirk, I decide the best place to find emotionless music is on mainstream radio, and so it’s there I go, hoping I can dodge the latest attempt from Adele to play on my heartstrings.

Portland may not shine the brightest or smile the widest, but I find it to be a beautiful rose of a city, and I could never think of living anywhere else. Moving here and creating work in photography was a drastic change from a secure life on the farm, but one I’ll never regret. By the time the train crosses the bridge into downtown Portland, I find myself successfully numbed to the effects of the tragic visit to my sister’s side of the family. I convince myself that it really is good to be back, because it is. I love it here, and that will never change.

So deep into my thoughts I am that I don’t notice an entire classroom full of grade schoolers in the train until they’ve eagerly filled the entire car. Surprised, I remove an earphone, taking in a moment’s worth of excited chatter about the last day of school and getting to the zoo. I chuckle quietly before putting my earphone back in, examining the kid’s antics with amused interest. That’s when my eye catches a very unusual sight, especially for this time of year.

A small young woman with long neon red hair has taken a seat in the far corner of the train just before the operator’s cab, easily avoiding the children that have taken ownership of the center of the car. Indeed, she was quite the sight. Most notably, she was the only one on this fine summer day (a rare commodity in Portland) to be clothed in both a scarf, covering her neck and the right side of her mouth, and a thick snow jacket, which she seemed to be shrinking into as if she was feeling a startling chill. I’ve seen a few tourists every now and again arriving on sunny days prepared for famed Portland downpours, but from what I can tell, she is utilizing her coat to the best of its abilities.

Despite this, however, she seems to be content and comfortable. I can see even from here that what is shown of her thinned lips seems to be turned into a serene smile, which turns into a brief laugh when she finally realizes that I’ve been gawking at her from at least the Pioneer Square station three minutes back. Embarrassed, I turn away and try and focus on my music. I can still see from the corner of my eye the woman staring at me intently, and then the sight of her hand beckoning me over. Still flustered, I wait until we get to the King’s Hill station so I can move towards her under the guise of granting my seat to a young mother and her graciously quiet baby before parting the sea of children on my way to this very unusual red-haired woman.

“You seem very interested in something,” she states, her voice as smooth as a pebble in a river. I can see her smiling as she stares out the window. Nonchalantly pointing to a poster on the roof of the train, she asks “Am I to assume that you find one of these insipid poems near me intriguing, or am I the one capturing your interest?”

With a short chuckle, I reply weakly “I kind of like those poems.”

“Art is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.” With that, she turns toward me, regarding me with a kind smile. “Miriam. Honored to share your presence.”

“Jonathan Fitzgerald,” I introduce myself in kind, holding a hand out for a handshake. She just regards my hand with a short, puzzled look before reclaiming eye contact with me. I myself am puzzled at her reaction but I don’t address the subject. Instead, I try a different topic. “Where are you heading?”

“Mm, nowhere in particular, to be honest. I’m simply exploring the city for whatever it’s worth.”

A tourist. Turns out I had her pegged. “Well, I hope you find some enjoyment here. I think Portland is quite a nice place, for what it is.”

“Agreed,” Miriam confirms, before inquiring “Another visitor?” with a fleeting glance at my plain red suitcase.

“Oh?” I find myself off kilter as the red suitcase brings back the faintest memory of my horrible experience in Indiana. “Oh, no. Just got back from a visit, actually.”

To my relief, she doesn’t address my journey. “Well, that’s good to hear. I’m glad that people who live in this town enjoy it so much. I enjoy people who enjoy their homeland.”

Her vocabulary impresses me, and I find the desire to listen to her speak more. “Well, thank you,” I reply in kind. The train screeches to a halt at a stoplight, reminding me of the fact that the ‘light’ in light rail certainly doesn’t account for light speed. Trying to continue the conversation, I ask “Well, where are you visiting from?” I observe her appearance again, with the winter jacket and the gloves and the pale skin. I’m thinking Russia, but she doesn’t seem to have an audible Russian accent. Maybe Canada or Alaska would be a better guess.

I would be incredibly wrong, as it turns out. “I’m from the sun,” she tells me.

“Huh?” As any average person would be, I’m surprised by her confession. Hardly a confession; playing her words back in my head I notice the evident conviction in her voice, as honest as one could be stating a simple fact.

Miriam gives a short laugh, clearly amused by my slack-jaw and puzzled eyes. “I take it I haven’t convinced you.”

Honestly, not really. This is Portland after all, a city that brags about its unusual citizens. If someone were to claim a solar nativity, they’d probably get enthusiastic thumbs up and possibly a ‘right on, sister!’ from a green haired guitar player who simply loves all the crazy little devils around this city. But I doubt anyone actually believes it. Some level of logic has to win at the end of the day.

Even if I haven’t said anything out loud, Miriam sighs, stating again “No, it looks like you will not be swayed so easily.”

“Honestly, you’re not the first person to make crazy claims around here,” I inform her, not knowing the weight of my words. At the word crazy, her smile turns into an offended frown, as if she’s wondering how I could possibly find such a simple fact so crazy. Quietly, she retaliates with “So narrow minded.”

“More like logical.” The train finally pulls into the next station, Goose Hollow, as I taste the bitter air between us with a grimace.

“Logical?” Miriam scoffs. “I highly doubt logic is of much use if what you think is logical and what I think is logical are by two completely laws of logic. Has that ever occurred to you? I should hope so; you seem like a very smart man.”

“Oh?” My indignation starts to boil over as I get more and more frustrated by this stranger (if it’s even her that I’m projecting my negative emotion towards). “I thought I was narrow minded.”

“The smartest people often are,” as she claims this I realize that she has grabbed my hand, squeezing my palm slightly within the grip of her fingers. I’m not sure what her intentions are, but I sit there silently until the train closes its doors and she lets me go. “Relax,” she orders me. Surprised, I try, letting my muscles lax within the seat. She seems satisfied enough and begins to face out the window, observant and eager.

“The tunnel’s the best part,” I find myself saying. “More than 700 feet below ground level and more than three miles long. Deepest tunnel in the world, as it turns out.”

“Intriguing,” she replies, although she doesn’t sound the part. Eventually, she sits forward in her seat once more, facing the cab of the train. Uncomfortably, I observe her as she drums her fingers listlessly on her leg before she finally snaps “I’d like you to tell me what is so illogical about my being from the sun.”

I’m blindsided by her command and the hint of anger in the voice that commands it. Feeling egged on, I immediately go through all the reasons that it should make no sense. “It’s astronomically hot there,” I declare. “Anyone who tried to live there would be set ablaze.”

“Unless the people who lived there can adapt to the heat,” she counters.  I notice her again with her winter jacket and chilled skin, realizing that she made a valid case if one could possibly be found. Miriam seems completely out of her element and frightfully cold, as if unadjusted to our temperatures.

“The sun is millions of miles away,” I try next, feeling my argument shake just a bit on the foundations. “There’d be no way you could get here.”

“No, there’d be no way for you to get here, as you have not mastered a form of transportation to safely make it to the sun,” she sighs. “Just because it’s the case for one side doesn’t make it so for both.”

I run a hand through my hair, frustrated. “You don’t seem like you’d be from the sun.”

She laughs as we finally make it into the tunnel. “Let me ask you this. Exactly what do you know about the people who live on the sun, other than the fact that they supposedly do not exist? I’ll tell you,” she interjects before I can respond. “Absolutely nothing. And it’s for a very simple reason; you do not wish to learn. You simply want to be right.”

I have no logical response to formulate as I see the scenery outside the windows change into pitch darkness occasionally broken by fluorescent lights. As it turns out, she has a solid case.

She softens her metallic gaze on me and offers a smile. “I’d be much warmer of a conversant if you were to stop denying my very existence.”

I can’t help but laugh. I’m still not convinced but I decide to roll with it. I try and find a way to change the conversation but the next question that pops up in my head is out my mouth before I know it.

“Why Earth?” I ask her. “Why would you decide to go here?” I raise my voice to make up for screeching of the train and add “I mean, it hardly seems that impressive to me. Charming at best.”

She shakes her head. “Honestly, I think that you’re undermining your planet. I’ll admit that you humans have done somewhat of a number on it, but as it stands, it’s in pretty decent shape. The cities are illustrious and the nature is consuming.”

“You like it here?”

“Quite. Earth is an interesting place, with interesting people. It’s quite different from the sun, admittedly, but that is where the adventure comes in.”

“Different? In what way?”

“The way people think that everything else is different from them. They think that because they’re five feet tall walking things that own this planet that on any other form of life they must be giant robed green monsters with stretchy heads or some other sort.” At the end of her statement, she is grinning ear to ear. It illuminates her face clearly; perhaps that’s just the lights speeding by in the tunnel.

“I’ll admit this, Miriam. Sci-fi is perhaps the weirdest thing on Earth.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

She’s still grinning when silence dominates the air again. The train pulls in to stop at the Zoo station, more than five hundred feet below the destination. Miriam observes the children outside her window as they eagerly pour out the doors like air out of a deflating balloon. Their excited cheers echo through the cavern as they run towards the elevators faster than the teachers can catch up with them. Soon enough everyone is out and the train is oddly quiet.

As the artificial voice of the train declares that the doors are closing, Miriam sighs “What it would be like to be a youth again. A simpler time that we can never get back, I suppose. I’d never be able to live in a world again where politics and discrimination were unheard of, where things were as simple as they should be, when there were so many things I did not know but did not care to learn, and where death just meant someone was going to visit the gods.”

I feel a sorrowful lump roll around in my gut as I reminisce my own simpler days along the Clearwater river, where my sister and I would play together and I’d never have to fathom that I’d watch her die a charred corpse along the interstate. I nearly bite holes through my lower lip trying not to cry but find the strength to nod.

“Life is weird,” she mumbles. I find it odd that the solar being would find anything weird, but at the same time it’s oddly comforting. “There are just so many things that don’t make sense no matter where you live.”

I find that, again, she’s right. “Agreed.”

She looks behind her to see an older couple sitting together below the steps, staring out the same side of the train as Miriam and I. I notice that they’re both male and yet it’s a legitimate romance; something confirmed as they exchange a brief kiss. They seem content and relaxed, carefree even.  I realize subconsciously that in most parts of our world such a kiss is thought to be an illegal or disgusting action.

I guess life really doesn’t make much sense.

I turn to Miriam, who has turned back towards the cab, her illuminating grin lighting up a blush along her cheeks. “America, the so-called land of independence. And yet, you’ll rarely ever see someone sitting alone and smiling about it. You certainly weren’t.”

“You’re right about a lot of things,” I say stupidly.

She giggles. “I try.”

I can’t help but think that every time silence takes place between us it’s because Miriam is figuring out the right thing to say. I wait patiently, drumming my fingers and taking the occasional glance at my travel companion. Eventually, she blurts out “I just don’t get how someone could kill another person for being different from him and love another person because she’s different from all the other girls.”

Her statement is jagged and confused, maybe even haunted. “Pardon?” I ask.

She clears her throat, acting as if she said the wrong thing. “What I mean is that I don’t get why everything has to be different. We’re not that different. You and I, we’re not that different.” Her voice is uncertain but her eyes observe me closely. But I’m not sure what to say.

She fills the empty space with her words again. “Just… humor me, Jonathan. What harm would it do for you to believe that maybe I am what I say I am? You may never see me again, and I can assure you that our solar rulers have no plan to zoom in on flying dinnerware and invade your planet. Personally, I’d find it to be interesting to have someone with such a different perspective, but... I just don’t get how this can’t be as simple as it sounds.”

I look into the tree-bark brown hue in her eyes. They remind me of my own. They remind me of Lauren’s. Especially of Lauren’s. It sends a chill up my spine to finally realize how similar their eyes are.

I decide I can at least humor her. Her lips are turned downwards, anxious, reluctant to say more. If she won’t, then I will.

“What’s life like on the sun?”

She contemplates her answer as the train wails through the tunnel, the screeching sounds of the metal on metal echoing through the chambers. “The same, yet different.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that we’re certainly not twenty feet green people with an endless amount of tentacles,” she informs me with a crooked grin. “In fact, we’re a lot like you humans, only adapted to the heat of the sun.” She shivers, pulling her jacket even closer to her. “Not as much to temperatures like this.”

“That makes sense,” I admit. “So you’re humans, just like Earthlings?”

She laughs at that one, her frame shaking within the coat. “And here I was thinking that Earthling was a slang term we used on the sun. I was worried about dropping that one around you because you’d be offended.”

I shrug with a smile. “No, no. You’re fine.”

She sighs, relaxing again. “Good to hear. But to answer your question, we’re not exactly like Earth natives, or,” she snickers slightly, almost embarrassed to use the term, “Earthlings. Whichever you prefer. We have our own advantages, I suppose.”

“Oh really? Such as?”

“Well, aside from resistant to extreme heat, we have heightened perception skills, especially when it comes to reading emotions. If I wanted to, I could look into even the blankest of stares you have to offer and determine how you’re truly feeling.”

The idea makes me shudder, and again reminds me of Lauren and how she’s dead. I don’t want to let on, though, so I avert the attention from myself. “So, I’d imagine that it’d make for an honest environment where you come from?”

She snorts. “Hardly. We’ve just become better liars.”

I notice her eyes have closed and that the light that she seems to radiate has dulled. Before I can coax her into conversation, she continues on her own. “Unfortunately, I’ve found that we can still get away with hiding how we feel from our own kind if we’re careful enough. It’s much too easy to put on a convincing smile and say ‘I’m fine,’ and push our own troubles out of our mind until the next time we’re bitterly reminded of them.”

Her eyes haven’t moved open a smidge and by now she’s wearing a deep frown. “Are you okay?” I ask by instinct.

She cracks a small grin. “Just fine, Jonathan.”

I frown, knowing that I shouldn’t be convinced. I fumble around for her hand, and when I grab it I realize that her skin is as cold as she claims to be. It helps my own body cool down and fight the sweltering heat, or at least what I would define to be sweltering. She opens her eyes and brings herself to sit up straight, gently leaning her head against my shoulder. “Good, Jonathan. You’re catching on.”

“Experience,” I mumble.

That’s how we sit through the rest of the tunnel. My brain is burning with sorrow which eats a hole inside my stomach. Tears threaten to brim over but I’m able to fight them with some strength. I look over at my traveling companion, whose eyes are wide open but nearly without expression, searching and haunted. Her entire lower lip is under the pressure of her teeth, and I feel her grip tighten on my hand. When we break out of the tunnel, we’re greeted by powerful rays of sunlight, uninhibited by clouds or mist as they beam down on the train, soaking through the windows.

Another question crosses my mind. “Miriam, what do you think of when you see the sun from here?”

Her voice finally cracks. “I… I think that I’m not too far away from home.”

The honesty in her voice is enough to convince me of everything she said. Perhaps it’s just my grief, perhaps it’s hers, perhaps it’s the fact that our two grieving souls have found each other for just a moment and we’re willing to believe and feel anything that will make us feel better. Right now, though, I realize that whether she’s from the sun or from the Pearl District or even escaped from a psych ward, she’s not that different from me at all. I understand what she means now, why it wouldn’t mean much to believe where she’s from. It doesn’t make her as different from me as I’d have thought.

I realize that we’re still on the train when the artificial female voice announces that we’re approaching Sunset Transit Center. I hear Miriam laugh at the coincidence as she pulls herself up and off of my shoulder. “This… is my stop, actually,” she tells me.

“Mine too.” It’s a lie, but I find that I don’t want to leave her company just yet. She shakes her head, smiling. “I wonder if I’ll see you again.”

“That’d be nice,” I add honestly, a bit dazed by the magnitude of this fifteen minute train ride. Somehow, I have a feeling that it won’t happen. There’s little explanation to that feeling but it seems to be an unavoidable truth.

Miriam seems to agree, but she doesn’t let go of my hand as we get ready to leave the train. As the doors open, we stand in the station, reluctant to move, reluctant to depart. I look her in the eyes that are just like my dead sister’s, feeling the chill move through my body again. Finally, she speaks.

“I think this will pass,” she tells me, reassuring me, reassuring herself. Before I can ask her to elaborate, she continues. “Grief, death, tragedy. It’s hard, for both of us, to lose a sister... but… I think we’ll survive. Somehow.”

I’m astonished that Miriam knew, but as I realize that she claimed (and probably did) have the ability to read my expression, my resolve breaks and I gently embrace her. She doesn’t hesitate to return, holding onto my chest tightly as if she fears the consequences of letting go as much as I do. At that moment, she is incredibly real, every last detail in her haunting dark brown eyes and every last beautifully spoken word of her story.

I don’t feel the tears sting my eyes anymore, nor do I feel any across my shirt, but I’ve never felt this broken. It’s as if I’ve finally recognized that everything that happened to me, to Lauren, is true, and that something like it happened to Miriam too. I don’t know how either of us are going to let go, but we’re going to have to eventually. It’d be nice to be safe where we are, safe from sorrow and anxiety and nervousness and confusion, but we can’t block it out forever.

For now, though, we have our moment in the sun. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Positives from Negatives- A Paper On Improving the Reconfiguring Route Plan

Hello, readers. As I've done before, I've made a paper on bus routing and service. TriMet has announced route reconfiguring ideas recently, which has potential to do well for the service but currently is presented in a way that would harm service when it could easily do more without spending much money at all. I'm not in support of much anything TriMet does, but I think there is potential for some good things to happen in the system, or at least better than presented. Also, I find it's easier to win in smaller steps than to demand everything at once (which I would absolutely love to do otherwise, and is what deserves to happen) otherwise TriMet will not listen. It's a very unlikable idea, but ultimately it will have to pass.

I'm posting this here in a rough draft because I could really use some feedback. All of the bus riders in the region, as well as the Jason McHuffs and Adri Cs of the map studying and fact checking specialty to give me a logical feedback to make sure my ideas are straight before I email it to TriMet management- hopefully not knocking on wood.

Cameron Johnson.


Positives from Negatives

How to edit the ideas and suggestions of reconfiguring routes to work better for both parties.

Dear TriMet,

As I’ve done in the past, I’ve kept my study on the maps of the system, looking for possible ideas of service improvements. When you released your budget saving ideas, it’s safe to say that I disagreed with most, if not all of them. I was, however, intrigued by your idea of reconfiguring routes, and while I was initially opposed to the idea, I’ve realized that if some edits, adjustments and maybe new ideas were added to the list, then it could possibly be a good idea for the service in general.

From what I’ve seen, TriMet has utilized this idea under the guise that cutting service is the only way this idea would work. I believe that this is not always the case, especially in this situation. I am writing this paper in an effort to show you that there are indeed ways to pull off the route reconfiguring while continuing to provide proper, perhaps better service to the riders and saving around the same amount of money.

Notably through this paper you will find that I stay away from cutting service- for the most part. There’s a relatively large cut in the paper that you’ll probably find as soon as you see the proposal. Worry not, though, for the reason behind that cut is aimed more at safety precautions (and is actually something I’ve brought up in prior papers and still advocate for.)

I hope that you will take this paper seriously as you go forward in your cuts and that it will help you in your decisions.

Cameron Johnson.

Northwest Portland/Saint Johns

It’s pretty easy to see that the cuts in this area are perhaps the most drastic out of any of the other sections, notably because of the suggestion that service along the industrial area north of Montgomery Park and to Linnton and Sauvie Island would be reduced to the current frequency of the underutilized levels of line 16-Front Avenue/St. Johns- a harrowing frequency of 35-40 minutes, rush hour only. While for line 16 in its current state it is somewhat suitable, for a community like Linnton which relies solely on the current line 17 for bus service, it would turn the area into a pseudo-Boring, and we know how things worked out between Boring and TriMet.

The basic fact is that this kind of service is one that needs to have a somewhat reliable frequency, as well as the Sauvie Island Park and Ride. And the industrial business parks are definitely not to be forgotten- they’re among the busiest business areas in the city and there is no alternative for workers if line 16/17 were to stop providing midday, evening and weekend service. This kind of service is especially important for night shift workers, who commonly get to work on the 9pm hour trips and would depart work on the early morning, and at line 16’s current levels that ride will not be able to take place, displacing many workers.

16-Front Avenue/St. Helens Hybrid.

The most relatable line that this line 16/17 hybrid would be comparable to is line 30-Estacada. Like line 16/17, it serves a heavy industrial area, and then goes on to serve several otherwise isolated areas, all on a frequency of anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, six days a week, all day from 5am to 8pm, which is just reliable enough to use in all times of the weekday. If we were to run line 16/17 on a somewhat improved frequency of that (given that it is a busy route, we could run it closer to the current frequencies of the St. Helens segment of line 17) then I would think that we much better off than the current proposal. This would also provide vastly improved service to the densely used and populated areas along Front Avenue between the city center and Nicolai.


Another issue I wanted to address was the way the proposed hybrid would be routed, to connect the Front Avenue segment and the Yeon/St. Helens segment across NW 26th Drive, a stop-less bridge just north of Nicolai and south of 29th Avenue. My concern with this is that by routing it this way, this breaks the connection of Montgomery Park from the rest of Northwest Portland and Saint Johns. Also lost would be the connections into inner NW provided by lines 15-NW 23rd Avenue and 77-Broadway/Halsey (which would be realigned along Everett/Glisan in place of line 17, an idea that I personally support.) These connections would not be possible again until downtown Portland, and only then if the current routing in downtown Portland is altered to be more accessible (more on that later.) Instead of using the 26th Drive connection, I propose that line 16 would use NW Nicolai instead, in order to provide a streamlined connection into Montgomery Park and maintain current service on NW 29th Avenue that would be lost with the 26th Drive format.

With this alignment, line 16 trips would turn left on Nicolai going outbound, and going inbound it would take the exit along NW Sherlock and 21st, just a block south. There is a small confluence of businesses just north of this area, which would no longer be directly served by the 16 but is still less than a quarter mile from the intersection. Providing stops at Nicolai just after Front going outbound and at Nicolai and Sherlock going inbound would help provide a nearby stop for those heading to that destination, and the sidewalk is in good shape currently around that area. Also, most will find an increase in service along that corridor (provided by prior line 17 levels) worth the tradeoff of a short walk.

About four new stops would be needed, and these would be taken from the discontinued sections along Front Avenue. Some stops along Nicolai would already be served by lines 15 and 77, and line 16 would just use those as well. Stops on Nicolai going outbound placed at 29th and 27th would be crucial to connect line 16 to nearby Montgomery Park. The option always stands to have line 16 duck into the stops on 27th and Wardway going outbound, but I imagine it would take an extra minute or two out of the schedule. Line 16 would then turn onto NW 29th to serve current line 17 stops for the rest of the route.

There are several pros to this route as opposed to the 26th Drive corridor, notably a connection to Montgomery Park, lines 15 and 17, and no loss on the current line 17 route. There would be less service on the Front Avenue segments, with more of it being out of reach than already would be, but that’s already hard to avoid and the new segment that would be cut off is within walking distance from potential stops on Nicolai.

With line 16 running at line 17’s frequencies, I’d also argue that it deserves better downtown service than the hard to access loop around SW Oak, which is out of reach of several downtown lines, including those on Salmon, Main/Madison and Jefferson/Columbia. I propose that other alternatives be considered for the line, which would save less money overall; however, I’d argue that the cost saved by moving line 77 from Lovejoy to replace line 17’s inner NW service would mitigate those costs with relative ease.

There are two alternatives that could easily be taken- interlining it with line 10 or running it with other lines along Jefferson and Columbia.

The former idea is as simple as it sounds. Buses would use Front until Davis going inbound, and would access Front via Everett. The route would use the transit mall along 5th and 6th, stopping with lines 4, 31, 32, 33 and 99 Northbound and Southbound. Then, buses would use the Main/Madison streets to pick up line 10’s route to Lents. The buses share approximately the same frequency, so interlining should be easy. On weekends, when line 10 doesn’t run, line 16 would simply U-turn around SW Clay from 5th back onto 6th. This route would be called 16 (or 10)-Harold/St. Helens Rd.

Otherwise, line 16 would fill in some extra service along Jefferson/Columbia, following Naito Parkway with new stops at Ash, Stark, Yamhill and Salmon before following the corridor to Goose Hollow, layovering with line 45 at 16th and Columbia since line 43 no longer will. This would provide the connection to the MAX lines, streetcar and other bus lines of downtown, even if connections are not necessarily direct (the line would be one to three blocks away from lines on Main/Madison and Washington/Salmon.)

The rivergate section wouldn’t need much adjusting- just two smaller details. The first would be that instead of making this a “shuttle”, a confusing enough term, to just give it a number- for this case, line 40-Rivergate.

Second, connections should be set up between line 40 and line 16, so that transfers between the two are smooth and easy. To do this, line 40 would stop at Lombard and Philadelphia and loop around Baltimore, Ivanhoe and Saint Louis, layovering at Jubitz so that the routes can share a stop. These small precautions will make the connection easier even with two separate routes.

I believe that with these suggestions and improvements to the cut in mind, you not only soften the cuts, but you also improve service in other areas, and provide streamlined service throughout the corridor.

North/Northeast Portland

The North/Northeast part of Portland is among the most transit dependent in the city- a confluence of five frequent service routes within a small radius as well as a MAX line, and plenty of lower income areas to serve. It’s that area that would face some very interesting and inconveniencing reroutes, mainly along lines 6, 8, 9 and 70. Seeing as this is a transit dependent neighborhood, such cuts need to be looked at in order to make sure we are not leaving transit riders high and dry.

Line 6-Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Line 6 provides a viable connection between the incredibly busy Martin Luther King Jr. Corridor and the Kenton/North Lombard neighborhoods, also of high activity. These two need a reliable connection, and the current plan would axe that immediate connection instantly- line 6 does not meet with lines 4 and MAX Yellow Line between Downtown and Lombard TC, and even then line 4 is several blocks away. These two are the only immediate connection to Kenton, and people who live along MLK around Prescott simply cannot go all the way downtown to catch the MAX or 4, and otherwise would need to ride 3 buses to get from there to Kenton Library, turning a ten minute trip to one of nearly an hour’s length. It’s something that can’t happen.
To counteract this, line 6 should not run along the Vancouver Way corridor as it is planned to do. But to avoid that, the current service would have to remain with line 8, and currently line 8 is planned to end at Dekum just before MLK. I propose that enough leeway be given to line 6 so it ends just at the Kenton station instead of being completely shortlined.

Simply put, line 6 would run its usual route to N Denver and Interstate. It would then veer right onto Interstate, heading south with a stop just to the side of the Kenton MAX Station. Afterward it would turn right and right again via Fenwick and then N McClellan, with a layover being set up just after the Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, adjacent to a parking lot and a block away from the MAX Station and the center of the Kenton Neighborhood. Then, the route would continue back towards Portland and on its way again. This would ensure that the needed connection would be maintained, as it is a valuable connection between neighborhoods that should not be cut because it is near other routes. Oftentimes, it is because of the different areas that are connected that routes are lined along a similar busy segment, as is the case here.

Line 8-NE 15th Ave

With Line 6 concluding in Kenton, it would be presumed that line 8 would maintain its current route to Vancouver Way and Middlefield and then continue onto Jantzen Beach the same way line 6 is planned to at this time being. This is a good thing, because it would connect the residential areas along 15th avenue to the mall on Hayden Island- a very well established connection. As stated, line 4 of C-Tran will provide a transfer to MAX Yellow Line from Jantzen Beach and back again, and as long as C-Tran fares work on TriMet’s service and drivers avoid any problems in the past of avoiding Jantzen Beach service (although last I heard of that was year’s back, so that’s probably barely a problem) then that will do finely.

Line 9-Broadway, Line 73 NE 33rd Avenue

Connection to the Portland City Center is something that is often necessary for a route to work well. When line 73 was cut off from downtown Portland, it saw a drastic reduction in ridership, and therefore a drastic reduction of service is proposed, which will come with another loss of ridership. Soon enough the route will continue cannibalizing itself until it is removed from service. The same thing is happening to line 24-Fremont, and with line 9 being potentially routed into line 70, it is sure to receive backlash from those in NE Portland who desire downtown service from Broadway and Concordia.

However, there’s a big problem I have with line 9-Broadway. North of Broadway/24th, it is very unsafe. Along NE 24th Avenue, there are constant interruptions by roundabout planters at several intersections. Service along Regents Drive and 29th is not much better, but service along 27th avenue is incredibly unsafe for a bus this size to operate on. 27th Avenue is the size of an average residential street, but line 9 utilizes forty foot buses both ways down this section. One bus can barely squeeze down the road in almost every instance, and there is a very dangerous intersection at 27th and Killingsworth where the route must make a short turn west to get back on 27th, and this has caused several instances where the bus has trouble crossing, and must back up multiple times to fit through, causing many near misses with cars along the busy Killingsworth corridor as well as blocking traffic overall. As much as I hate to remove service, along this corridor it’s simply unsafe to run a large bus with regular service, especially when you risk two of them having to pass each other along this street, a near impossibility.

However, to make up for this cut, I propose that line 9 combines with line 73 at 21st and Broadway, and does not combine with line 70. Instead, line 9 would run on its current segment to downtown Portland via Broadway, and then turn left not on 24th, but 33rd Avenue, and then run on an improved frequency along 33rd Avenue to Sunderland. Service would run at current line 9 levels to at least 33rd and Dekum to make up for the loss of service on 27th Avenue (6 blocks away) and 24th Avenue (9 blocks away at most.)

Service along 33rd Avenue would be, as a result, more inviting than current levels, running at a higher frequency than before and connecting to downtown and SE Portland as it used to. Also to be considered is running line 24 at a slightly better frequency than before to aid those in the Regents/Alameda area displaced by line 9 moving to 33rd, and perhaps extending it down to Rose Quarter Transit Center, although it’s not at a high priority. As well as this, you should definitely consider improving service along 15th Avenue just slightly enough to make up for any migration to line 8.

It would be a tough cut but hopefully it will make the neighborhood a safer place and the promise of improved service will make things easier for those displaced, as well as bring life back to neglected segments of the service.

Line 70-12th Avenue

Taking the other adjustments into consideration, what would happen to line 70 is that essentially, nothing would happen to line 70 as it is today. It would still run along the same segments as before with the same frequency and connections as before.

In regards to service in the Beaverton Area, my questions were addressed at the Open House, and as such I have little to add in this paper. I was told that line 67 would have improved service along 158th and Bethany to make up for the loss on Jenkins and that line 48 would be brought back up to Sunday Service to match the current service along line 89 on Cornell. I suggested running line 67 to Willow Creek along Baseline by Elmonica and its residential areas to interline with line 88 to Beaverton, but was told that service would not be improved on the route if this were to take place.

However, it should not be ignored that service to Willow Creek from Merlo/158th Avenue is more than a mile shorter than service to Beaverton TC from the same station, and therefore service increases on line 67 should not be out of reach at all. I urge you to at least go forward with the current increase ideas and bring the option of line 67 along Baseline to the public for them to provide feedback on.

Line 12-Sandy/Barbur, 71 60th/122nd Avenue and 78-Beaverton/Lake Oswego

I should state that I readily agree and approve of the idea of providing outgoing lines from Parkrose and Tigard Transit Centers to keep line 12 from running late and from running two and a half hours on end, both of which combined takes a punishing toll on drivers of the route. The new line 12 would run trips only seventy minutes of length on average, and that’s much better than the current stage. (I myself had brought the point and idea up before, and it’s good to see it being fulfilled.)
There is the matter of connections from one to the other, which would no longer be one trip. As proposed with line 16/40, I propose the two new routes’ schedules align with line 12 so that transfers to Sherwood or Gresham are done with ease, with both routes arriving and departing at the same time with ample time to transfer.

As for the Sherwood segment, the obvious idea would be to run a new line along the segment. However, I can’t help but think a better idea would be to run a separate line from Tigard not to Sherwood, but along the current line 78 to Lake Oswego. This new line (line 42-Sylvania) would run at the same frequency as line 78 between Tigard and Lake Oswego. Meanwhile line 78 would run along Pacific Highway to Sherwood along the line 12’s current routing, at the frequency it currently runs along itself. A Beaverton/Sherwood alignment is one that would seem practical since there are several roads that run between Pacific Highway and Scholls Ferry or TV Highway but no immediate connection. However, this is definitely an idea you would want to run by the public because this is a large change and the public could want things to remain the same.

Otherwise, in Northeast Portland, instead of running line 71 at its current routing, it would be broken somewhat in half at Parkrose Transit Center. The 122nd Avenue section would run on its own, since it’s a high capacity corridor often brought down by late buses on the west end, and vice versa. The new route (21-122nd avenue) would be only 40-50 minutes long.

As for the 60th Avenue section, still line 71, it would pick up the East Sandy and 223rd Avenue segment every other trip, to keep at the segment’s current frequency. Every other line 71 trip would end at Parkrose TC, shortening the route to 50 to 60 minutes from Clackamas to Parkrose. Otherwise, line 71 would run along East Sandy and 223rd, connecting Clackamas and SE Portland to the outer NE/Gresham areas, a lot more useful than its current horseshoe loop. The full route, on its trips, would be 90-110 minutes total, but there is less of a chance for late buses due to less activity along the Sandy/223rd segment.

The idea is a good one, and it could help shorten one or two other routes in the process as well as establish newer, more efficient connections.


As I hope I’ve shown, the reconfiguring routes could go a lot better if more thought and planning is put into it. It must be taken into account that even if routes reconfigure that does not mean that their presence is unimportant, and you can still improve service while saving money, and just because it can be classified as a cut does not mean that the public cannot still be served properly, something that seems to have fallen by the wayside in previous cuts.

Hopefully I’ve given you at the planning department something to think about.

Thank you,
Cameron Johnson