“Instead of sitting in traffic and dodging aggressive, texting drivers, I can read a book, network, chat with a stranger, teach my children and move my body.” — Tara Carlson
Portlander Tara Carlson has a car; she’s simply stopped using it.
“I’ve always used mass transit or cycled everywhere I went,” Tara said. “If the place I was headed was within 10 miles, I made myself bike or use mass transit.”
Each day, Tara and her young twin sons can be spotted zipping along on their Razor scooters, to catch the next MAX light rail train or Portland Streetcar. She guesses that her self-imposed “rule” has saved her about $200 a month.
But for Tara, using public transportation is more than saving money. TriMet has become an integral part of getting her sons off to school, and to her job as a structural specialist at Neil Kelly remodelers, which pays for her monthly pass. It has allowed Tara to spend more quality time with her boys, avoid the headaches of Portland traffic and to simply breathe.
“Instead of sitting in traffic and dodging aggressive, texting drivers, I can read a book, network, chat with a stranger, teach my children and move my body,” Tara wrote in a blog for TriMet. “If I miss the MAX, it just gives me 10 extra minutes to catch my breath, be outside and be aware of what is going on around me … it gives me a ‘roll with it’ attitude.”
What about winter’s chill? “The weather doesn’t impact whether or not we use MAX, it only affects whether we bring our Razor scooters with us,” she said. “In Northwest Portland, our MAX stop is like walking across the street.”
Public transportation as freedom
One doesn’t have to live within Portland’s city limits to enjoy the convenience of TriMet. In fact, the Ferris family, who live in Hillsboro, consider it a lifeline.
“Because my parents are disabled, I am a full-time transit user,” said Naim Ferris, a 9-year-old MAX light rail user who penned a blog for TriMet. Naim’s family consists of his twin brother, Aaron; his mom, Lisa, who is deaf and blind; his dad, Niklas, who is blind; a baby brother, Avery; and the family’s guide dog.
Naim has been riding TriMet since he was an infant. “It is better to ride TriMet than to ride a car, because cars pollute and use energy, and you don’t need a drivers license to ride TriMet,” he said. “I know a lot more about my way around than other kids do, I get lots of exercise and get to be outside more.”
For Naim, thanks to mass transit, Portland’s best family-friendly places are only a few stops away. “Some of my favorite stops are OMSI, Village Home, Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center, the Airport, Starbucks, Jeld-Wen Field for Timbers games, Northwest Children’s Theater and the Children’s Museum. The Oregon Commission for the Blind, where my dad works, is too,” Naim said.
Asked to pick his favorite between riding MAX light rail, the Portland Streetcar, buses or even the aerial tram, Naim didn’t hesitate: “I like MAX, because there are several different colors that come to one stop and its easy to understand,” he said. “You don’t need to pay attention as much and pull the rope for your stop like on a bus.”
Because the family has been using public transportation for so many years, Naim’s parents have safety rules well ingrained in their sons’ heads.
“We have some basic ground rules,” Lisa Ferris explained. “They are not allowed to step on the white bumpy borders on the train platforms. They are not allowed to ever play on the tracks. They can only cross at an official track crossing and must always stop and look and listen for trains — common sense stuff.”
In addition, mobile technology is making it easier for those from the blind community and others in need of particular information sharing assistance to track mapping, schedules and payment. “We can now use i-devices to check real time bus arrivals and to see where the nearest bus stop is, or to find transit directions to get anywhere,” Lisa said. Accessibly to public transpiration information via technology is a huge help for their family.
“Everyone accuses us of liking TriMet because we have no other choice. But I’d like to think that if we could drive, we would still use transit 90 percent of the time.”
Many Portland families such as the Carlsons and Ferrises choose TriMet and public transportation for a wide variety of reasons, including benefits to the household budget, the environment and, as demonstrated, to each individual family’s overall quality of life.
This article first appeared in Portland Family Magazine.