She made the switch from SUV to mass transit –

She made the switch from SUV to mass transit –

Here’s a little piece that caught my eye on my Sightline Daily subscription.  It’s the story of one transit commuter in Vancouver, WA who commutes to work in Oregon on a daily basis.

This is a big change from just 10 months ago, when Raichel drove herself work. Like millions of people across the nation, Raichel cut her driving habit and started using mass transit to save money.

Some will say it’s for environmentally correct reasons. But Raichel will not tell you she changed her lifestyle to spare the world of her carbon emissions. She was tired of high gas bills and sitting behind the wheel.

Since then, however, gas prices have tumbled, and yet Raichel and many other new riders have stuck with the mass transit habit.

I think if we provide a good alternative to the car, then people will come out to transit.  A lot of my friends and coworkers express that their only transportation choice is the car.  I can’t blame them because of the way the city has been set up and the way transit has not met most people’s needs.  Some people can make the change with little sacrifice, while others cannot afford the sacrifice in terms of time spent in transit.

In the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver, B.C. and Portland have sort have been North American leaders in sustainability and urban planning.  However, highway and bridge building could help to erase that sort of reputation.  Certainly, Vancouver is not truly sustainable once get off the Burrard Peninsula.  The rest of Metro Vancouver is truly suburban and you really need a car to get around.  Bus service is roundabout and not direct.  Case in point about roundabout, inconvenient service is provided at the end of the article.

Recently, Raichel got ominous news – the kind that rattles any rider hugging a schedule. C-TRAN proposed that starting in May the No. 164 bus would not stop at the Rose Quarter. Something about the new transit mall in downtown Portland, and the scheduling of buses and trains on downtown bridges.

That will leave Raichel with two options, neither attractive. She can take the 164 to downtown, transfer to a MAX train to the Rose Quarter and catch the 85. Or, she can drive to Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center near Portland International Airport and catch the MAX Red Line to the Rose Quarter and catch the 85.

Either option adds at least 20 minutes to her morning commute, already lengthened by the switch from SUV to bus. And Parkrose/Sumner is about halfway to work, so the gas savings wouldn’t be as great.

“So unless something changes, I’m going to end up returning to my car full-time and that’s very disappointing to me,” Raichel says. “I enjoy riding the bus.”

You can try and dangle the environment carrot in front of people as much as you like, but nobody bites if the carrot when it means creating undue and excessive inconvenience. I’m sure transit users and drivers South of the Fraser could attest to that.

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