Don’t take TriMet to your 4th of July event

Yeah, you read that right. Don’t take TriMet to your 4th of July event. Or rather “Take TriMet to your 4th of July event if you can, just don’t expect to be able to take it to the events TriMet listed on their website” But that was too long to use as a title for this post.

TriMet’s promoted 4th of July events: Edit – evening hours of 07-01-10: Hey cool, they listened to me!  The old page listed the following events I have here in my post.  The new page took the lack of bus service into account, and removed two of the promoted events due to no adequate service.

But here’s the list that was originally posted and my comments:

WATERFRONT BLUES FESTIVAL – The Waterfront Blues Festival fireworks show will be the largest July 4 show in Oregon. Fireworks will be launched at 10 p.m. showcasing a spectacular dueling fireworks display over the Willamette River.

This one you could probably take TriMet to if you live on a MAX line, or if you can drive to a park & ride. Trains are going to be running on a Saturday schedule plus extra service trains, so you probably wouldn’t have any trouble getting there or back. Buses, however, are on Sunday schedules, meaning if you’d need to take any of the following to get there, you’re out of luck:

1, 10, 16, 18, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 38 39, 43, 46, 47, 48, 50, 51, 53, 55, 59, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 81, 82, 84, 85, 87, 92, 94, 96, 99, 152, 154, 156, 157 – all have no service on a Sunday schedule

19, 22, 31, 44, 45, 58, 70, 73, 76, 79, 80, 89, 155 – all stop running before 10pm on a Sunday schedule

52, 62, 71, 77, 78, 88 – these stop running soon after 10pm, so even if one of these could get you there, it couldn’t get you back.

FORT VANCOUVER – Billed as the biggest fireworks display west of the Mississippi River, the Fort Vancouver Fireworks Celebration returns this year and is expected to draw between 60,000 and 80,000 people to watch the 30-minute show. Fireworks begin around 10 p.m. and can be seen for miles on either side of the Columbia River.

Well, you’ll need C-Tran for this if you actually want to go to Vancouver. But the  same timing restrictions apply if you need any of the above TriMet buses to get there since these fireworks also start at 10.

OAKS PARK – Gates open at 10 a.m. at Oaks Park Amusement Park for a day-long Independence Day celebration featuring rides, live entertainment, refreshments and more. Fireworks start at 9:55 p.m.

Okay, take TriMet to this one if you go during the day…  but you’re out of luck if you want to do the fireworks show as the 70 (which is about half a mile away) stops running at around 7pm. I suppose you could walk across the Sellwood Bridge and catch the 35, but that’s kind of far, too.

TIGARD 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION – The Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration will be held at the Tigard High School soccer field. The festivities include clowns, live music, kids’ games and police and fire vehicles. Gates open at 6 p.m. with fireworks at dusk.

The only bus that runs near here is the 76, and the last one that runs through there towards Beaverton Transit Center on a Sunday schedule goes by at about 6:55pm. So you’ll have to leave soon after you get there and forget about the fireworks entirely.

It didn’t feel right making a post without photos, but I don’t have any pictures of fireworks from a train cab. So, here’s Washington Street in Hillsboro at night from a train cab with a long exposure.  Not fireworks, but it’s dark and colorful at least.

This isn’t the first time TriMet has promoted community events by saying you should ride public transit to them before ensuring that those events actually would be serviced by TriMet – the same thing happened on Earth Day this year where they suggested taking the 24, 51, 47, and 59 buses to events during that weekend – and none of those buses run on weekends.

Now in theory, I love the idea of getting people out and about and discovering cool things going on in their neighborhood by using public transit. In fact, I think it would be great to see TriMet do more promotions about where you can get to via transit – the Transit to Trails was a great offering, and I think more things along that line (building on the old “See Where It Takes You” and “FIND” campaigns, maybe even promoting ridership on some of the buses that are close to the chopping block so that they are no longer on the chopping block!) should be a focus for TriMet.

But this sort of thing just draws a glaring spotlight on the ongoing disconnect between TriMet-as-a-corporate-entity and the people who actually use (and operate) public transit. Shouldn’t whoever is behind these event promotions (marketing I guess?) be aware of the fact that with so many cuts to bus service, these events are not actually serviced by TriMet? I bet you the people whose lives were affected when they lost bus service by their homes or workplaces on weekends or outside of peak rush hour are precisely aware of what they no longer have access to. And I bet the operators who get uncomfortably full loads on their buses now that their route runs more infrequently notice too.

On a related note, I know that Joseph Rose got upset about my door buttons redux post, feeling that I was personally attacking him. I was not (I had even acknowledged that he could have been given bad information from TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch) – I was attacking the same issue that I am attacking here. Too many times with TriMet, information comes from above that is inaccurate and shows a lack of understanding by TriMet administration of what actually goes on on the front line – in that case, a spokesperson telling a reporter incorrect information about train functionality. In this case, TriMet telling people to take transit that doesn’t exist to events. And that gets extremely frustrating for the people who are affected by the spread of bad information, whether it’s someone stranded because their bus doesn’t run as late as they thought it would, or an operator getting a customer complaint – not because of anything they did wrong, but because something didn’t work the way the customer was told it would.

I don’t hate TriMet. I mean, I spend a fair amount of my free time writing about TriMet light rail! I am not endorsed or supported by TriMet to write here, I do it because I like it and I like sharing what I know with people who are interested. I’d prefer to just be blogging about train stuff, but I just find it so disappointing that this agency has been dismantling bus service as much as they have. Which is made even worse by TriMet trying to promote events that you can’t reach by buses anymore since those bus runs have been discontinued!

I wish you could take TriMet to those events. Or your job. Or your place of worship, or your grocery store, or wherever you want/need to go.  I really wish you could.


10 responses to “Don’t take TriMet to your 4th of July event

  1. Thank you for catching this error. We inadvertently overstated on our website how riders could take transit to get to 4th of July events throughout the region. Given all of our service changes over the past two years means we can’t rely on past promotions as we did in this case. We have updated that info and appreciate your attention.

    Also, it is important to understand that service is based on ridership. In years past we have put out additional bus service–particularly on the frequent service lines–for events, however, we found that it was lightly used. MAX takes the majority of passengers to and from their holiday destinations, therefore we add more MAX service (Saturday service rather than Sunday). We will have a couple of extra service buses out for July 4th, they just won’t be assigned to a particular bus line.

    Josh Collins
    TriMet Operations

    • Hi, and thanks for responding to me. Would you mind expanding further on your second paragraph? From what I can see in the ridership, buses carry *more* of TriMet’s passengers than MAX does… now granted since holiday service has been Sunday service for as long as I can remember, and even before all of the service cuts there was still more rail service than bus service on Sundays. So it makes sense that if there is more rail than bus service, there will be more rail than bus ridership. However, does TriMet have any plans in the works to promote bus services to increase ridership? I’m not very surprised when ridership on a line drops after the wait time between buses increases – very few choice riders are going to be willing to wait 45 minutes to an hour or more for a bus.

      • Sorry for being confusing, and thanks for asking for clarification. When I referred to the bus service being more lightly used than MAX, I was specifically talking about extra service for events. The first sentence of that paragraph would have been clearer if I had said that EXTRA SERVICE is based on ridership.

        Regarding bus ridership and plans to promote bus service, I think you will find that our new general manager is going to take this issue very seriously. In his welcoming message to employees, Neil McFarlane indicated that among his priorities will be strengthening the bus system and using clear and open communication to reach our riders and constituents.

        Josh Collins
        TriMet Operations

        • Thank you for clearing that up. I’m still not entirely sure I understand how that works (again, because if more trains than buses are offered for extra service ridership, it stands to reason that of course the trains are going to be carrying more riders simply because there are more of them) but I appreciate you taking the time to answer.

          Regarding McFarlane’s message, I saw that he said “Strengthening our bus system” and “Using clear and open communication to reach our riders and constituents” – but that was it. I understand that for his intro/welcoming message he wanted to just give an overview of his priorities rather than going into full detail on each one, but at the same time I’d be interested in seeing how he plans to address these issues, including measurable goals (e.g. what improvements should we see in the bus system 6 months from now? a year? five years?) and the processes that will be taken to reach them. I don’t want to be entirely cynical and dismiss McFarlane’s statements as just talk, but at the same time I don’t want to be Pollyanna-optimistic and believe that just because he said it, it’s going to happen. I hope that the plans to address these and his other bullet points will be expanded on in a follow-up message.

        • Another TriMet blogger wrote about the 4th of July (after the fact), and included this comment:

          “One of my daughters and I decided against taking the bus to Beaverton Transit Center and MAX from there, which turned out to be a good decision – I later heard from a bus driver that he had had to pass up people at most of his downtown stops; he filled his bus to the point of bursting at his first two stops going up 6th Avenue. Every stop he subsequently stopped at, he sent a “pass up” message to dispatch, which resulted in dispatch sending buses to take care of the stranded passengers on both his route and others. Hopefully everybody got home safely, if not in a timely manner…”

          MAX is great, of course, for people whose final destination is one of the platforms, but for people who live on a bus route (not near MAX!) and had to be passed up like that late at night not knowing if there would be another bus after that or not… I just feel like for future special events there could be a better way to approach it.

  2. I’m glad you and Joe Rose at the O got on TriMet about this. I wrote about this exact same problem two years ago on Portland Transport, which fell on deaf ears. To make matters worse, there’s much less service on Sunday schedules than there were two years ago. And there’ll be even less next year.

    As for two specific events:
    – C-TRAN doesn’t promote this, but their 4-Fourth Plain route (that runs between Van Mall TC and the Delta Park/Vanport MAX Station) now runs until about midnight. Still, it’s a decent walk from Ft. Vancouver to the bus stop in Downtown Vancouver.
    – As someone who sat on the Sellwood Bridge Community Task Force for 2­ 1/2 years, I can safely say that I’d only recommend walking across the bridge if you’re able-bodied, have no kids/immature individuals to worry about, and not afraid of heights – the sidewalk is only 3 feet wide! The only other service anywhere near the area is 33-McLoughlin, and that stop is all the way over at the Tacoma St. overpass.

    • To be honest, I’m surprised this got as far as it did. I’ve made complaints to TriMet as well that seem to fall on deaf ears, and I know when Al M blogged about this on Earth Day a few of his readers picked apart the mistakes where TriMet was promoted buses that don’t have weekend service, but nothing ever came of it.

      Considering how much Sunday service has been wiped out, it’d be nice if holiday service was switched to Saturday schedules for buses. I know that in a lot of cases, that doesn’t make a difference since most buses that don’t have Sunday service also don’t run on Saturdays, but some do at least. It’s better than nothing, anyway.

      Thanks for your additional thoughts on the C-Tran schedule & the Sellwood Bridge – I’ve never walked over that one so I wasn’t able to speak from any personal experience suggesting it!

  3. @Camelopardalis, re: your thoughts on Neil’s message.

    I am confident that you will hear more specifics about Neil’s vision soon. As you said, he’s just laid out some broad messages. Remember, he’s only had two days on the job.

    Something that you should appreciate, I have found that Neil places a high value on data and measurement. I’ve already been in one meeting with him where he has laid out his thoughts on using data to measure our successes and shortcomings, and assist in making business decisions.

    Some good discussion going on here!

    Josh Collins
    TriMet Operations

    • Thanks Josh – that is very interesting to hear. I do like the idea of him using a data-centric approach – how much does that differ from Fred Hansen’s style? I think it sounds very promising if he’s looking at a rigorous method of measuring and then planning based on those findings.
      Anyway, I’m looking forward to more in-depth communications from him as he gets acclimated to his new position. Thanks for sharing what you know.

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