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Line 20: A Refreshing Alternative to MAX During Rush Hour

Line 20 Stops in Front of Powell's Books
Line 20 Stops in Front of Powell's Books
David Mint

According to Trimet, at least one in eight Portland commuters finds him or herself there each day. Waiting for MAX to arrive, counting down the minutes on a digital display that is not correct even if read backwards, only to have the excitement of seeing MAX's headlights racing down the track toward them quickly and completely dampened as they watch the doors open and find that every square inch of the car is occupied by 200 fellow commuters with earphones in place staring at their smart phones and an occasional hanging bike flanked by its spandex clad owner.

Before making the all important decision to either put their head down, run full speed at the open door and hope for the best or to take their chances that the next MAX arrival in five minutes, as advertised on the platform clock of questionable accuracy, will have a vacant seat or at least a dignified place to stand, another thought crosses their mind. It is the same thought that Frank Costanza voiced as the idea of Festivus was born:

There must be a better way.

Thankfully, there is. No, it is not persons wearing white gloves to stuff people into the cars from the platforms a la the Tokyo Underground. It simply involves locating a bus that runs a similar route to that of MAX.

Take bus line 20, for example. This line runs nearly every 20 minutes between the Beaverton and Gresham transit centers, following Burnside for a good portion of its route. Even during rush hour, one can generally find an agreeable seat on the 20 and, on a clear day, take in more Portland sites than may be seen on some bus tours.

The obvious disadvantage is that taking the bus instead of MAX may, in some cases, double the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Make no mistake, MAX is packed for a reason. But for the rush hour commuter who just can't bear another game of involuntary twister in a crowded MAX car, sacrificing 20 minutes of sleep and locating a bus line like the 20 can lead to a stress free and enjoyable commute. While it is not Virgin Airlines, it may be the closest thing that a valid Trimet transfer can buy.


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