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Sunday, September 10, 2006

On the sunny side

I experienced some of the best of Portland yesterday. I had an errand to run downtown, and I decided to take the bus -- it makes more sense than dealing with a car down there. First I went online, to the Tri-Met website, and found out when the next bus was coming to our stop. It arrived within seconds of the scheduled time. The bus was clean and comfortable; I took a little siesta, which was much needed.

I hopped off the bus on the transit mall and took a short walk up to Powell's, the world's best bookstore. The staff was friendly and knowledgable, and the order that the Mrs. had placed electronically was ready for pickup. On the hike back to the mall, I needed lunch, and so I stopped at the Pearl Bakery, where I enjoyed a fantastic turkey sandwich. Check out the kaiser rolls in that place -- they're as close to a true New York City "hard roll" as you're going to find around these parts.

A five-minute wait for another bus -- from downtown to our house, there's a choice of three lines to pick from -- and another peaceful ride back home. All on a single ticket, which came for free in a "chinook book" that we bought for 20 bucks last fall.

As readers of this blog know, I have issues with Tri-Met, with Mike Powell's real estate ambitions, and with the Pearl District generally. But there's a lot of good in those places, too. Yesterday, it was all on display. We're lucky to live here.

Comments (45)

Glad to hear you say it.

Maybe it was because it was a Saturday, and government offices were closed...


If you didn't love the city, then you wouldn't bother to citicize it. It's obvious you love the city a lot. :-)

And the city of Portland government runs 24/7. Some of it, anyway. Imagine if we really rolled up the sidewalks at night. (Well, those neighborhoods lucky enough to have them...)

Glad it worked for you Jack - had it been me, I'd have jumped in the truck, made it to the bookstore in less than half the time it took you. Parking wouldn't have been THAT bad because it was a Saturday, I'd be back in the truck and home working on the BBQ in the time it took you to get there. Actually, come to think about it, I'd have had the book delivered to one of the satellite stores that aren't in Portland proper and done the whole thing even faster. To each their own which is why we subsidize Tri-Met to ever higher dollars.

That's one of the crankiest comments anyone's ever posted here.

That's saying a lot.

But Jack, you missed a chance to take the streetcar! :-)

I understand mmmarvel's point about why we subsidize Tri-Met. My question is, why in the world do we subsidize his truck?

How do you know it's a "he"?

I don't think we subsidize that truck.

But I doubt that he or she would have made it to the bookstore in half the time I did if he ir she had to park a truck at Powell's. Plus, what would you do for lunch -- drive to the Pearl Bakery? Park again?

For what I did, the bus was a fine option. I am not a car hater or even a truck hater, but I do like the buses around here.


I don't like to ride TriMet at all, and I can't imagine it as a siesta locale. The word "peace" and "TriMet" are not often seen (or heard) together. The buses were on time (which is always hard to gauge since I don't wear a watch and rely on the downtown parking meters to know the time, and they are usually about five minutes off from block to block).

Powell's has always seemed a rip-off to me, since the old days when they touted themselves as a "used-book" store. They always wanted top dollar for their used books and always paid practically nothing to buy their books back. Powell's success has always been a mystery to me, since there have always been several struggling bookstores in town which are much better deals. (Their only plus is their volume.)

Truth is, though, I find the Central Library most convenient for books at a very reasonable price: FREE.

I also don't care for turkey sandwiches.

I do think Portland has some decent bars downtown.

We took buses around town yesterday too -- including down to Powell's and over to the organic festival to hear RFK Jr.

Back in the days before I returned to school, I worked downtown and used Tri-Met almost exclusively for commuting. I never had a truly bad experience, but yesterday we did ride on one bus with an overwhelming smell of urine. That was quite charming.

Oh, and I love the Chinook book!

I hit the bus on a good day for riders -- a Saturday afternoon in late summer. But when it works the way it's designed, it's a thing of beauty.

What did you think of the service at the Pearl Bakery? Sometimes I go in and it's too much of a bother- usually crowded. Sometimes they're working hard, other times I see some folks standing around, staring off into space when the line stretches to the door. What gives? They make a good latte there though...

Wooooo Portland!

'How do you know it's a "he"?'
An implicit assumption, based on the attitude, the truck and the BBQ. Could be wrong.
But we certainly do subsidize car/truck transportation. We just don't talk about it much. I don't hate cars either, but I like to see some balance in conversations involving the cost of public transit.

What did you think of the service at the Pearl Bakery?

The place was pretty empty. The young fellow who helped me with my sandwich also answered my questions about their various breads with skill and patience.

But we certainly do subsidize car/truck transportation. We just don't talk about it much.

Let's. A reader suggested a while ago that the whole war in Iraq is a subsidy of truck drivers. Unfortunately, the comment included an ad hominem rant against me that led me to delete it. It was a valid point about the subsidy, though, I suppose.

balance in conversations involving the cost of public transit.

If it's gas prices that we're subsidizing, then Tri-Met riders are as much a beneficiary of that as private car owners, no?

Young fellow? They got guys that work there? Thought it was all girls that work there. What was his appearance, in case I need skill and patience in picking out bread...?

The skill and patience comes in interacting with people you don't know without annoying them.

You may need to work on that.

Allan L: I understand mmmarvel's point about why we subsidize Tri-Met.
JK: Why do we subsidize Trimet for doctors, lawyers ans other top income people to ride Trimet? Shouldn’t they pay their own way? Lets quit subsidizing the rich.

Allan L: My question is, why in the world do we subsidize his truck?
JK: We don’t. In Oregon, road users pay approximately ALL OF ROAD costs, except street lighting.

See: gastax.pdf at: Look at the state by state chart, you will see that, in Oregon, users pay almost all road expenses.

But what if we did subsidize roads? That would be a case of everyone subsidizing something that everyone uses (even transit uses roads!). Unlike subsidizing transit, which only a few use anymore.

To those who dream of a complete transit system that will magically draw people out of their cars, consider this: A country with excellent transit service in every city and lousy roads. Then along came very expensive cars. People began to abandon mass transit from that point on, except briefly during WWII. My example, of course is the 1920s in the USA. Why do Portland’s planners thank that they can replay history with a different result?


Well, mass transit isn't going away. You're paying for it -- why not use it, if your route and time permit?

Jack comments: " if your route and time permit". Routing of the system is just part of the problem. North Portland is one of the poorest sections of the city. Five miles away in the Rivergate Industrial Park are a number of companies with well paying jobs, but the service Trimet provides to the are is poor at best.
I don't think I need to spell this out, but Trimet's lack of service to the area contributes to the poverty in the city.

"But what if we did subsidize roads? That would be a case of everyone subsidizing something that everyone uses (even transit uses roads!). Unlike subsidizing transit, which only a few use anymore."

I use transit. I drive a car. But who knows if I drive the same steets you do? Aren't I subsidizing the street in front of your house, if I never drive on it?

What if could choose to have only MY street tended to or MY bus route?

That just isn't reasonable, plus, I couldn't afford it, just as you couldn't afford to cover the costs of each street you drive. The way I understand it, that makes us both subsidising each other.

It's called the greater good, buddie. Way, way back, humankind figured out survival was easier together, than trying to go it alone. Sometimes that means a little sacrifice and sharing (Oh my!). I guess we need to be reminded of that every now and then.

Oh, and, by the way, the gas tax hasn't been raised in nearly 15 years and comes nowhere close to covering the costs of street and road repairs.


I think it is a good idea to look at how we can work to improve the transit system. If we all look at how we use our cars, the majority of the time is commuting, and if we were all rich, we would have a town car chauffering us around. I have also traveled and seen transit systems at their best, but you will need public involvement and committment to make changes, as TM I fear has also been kidnapped by planners and is much more interested in supporting the sexy TOD than getting people where they need to go.

There are three things that could be done immediately.

1. Change fare collection to prepaid debit cards like METRO in DC

2. Use that information to track the real numbers. This can be done by ID number to protect folks privacy, find out how many of he Boarding Rides, are actually people transferring trying to get to where they need to do, and define trips/person. Refine the routes to minimize travel time for people in the suburbs and they will ride or drive to an outlying Park and Ride and keep their cars out of the central city. On the Westside Sunset TC and the park and ride at Bridgeport have been to capacity for years now. There are a group of ideological purest planners at Tri-Met who don't respect Prado's principal, that you can get to 80% of where you want to be with first cost of 20% investment, getting everyone out of thier cars all the time, ie not having parimeter park and rides where people use their cars for only a fraction of the communte. Getting that last 20% to be purest, costs you 80%. That is the difference between engineers and planners.

3. I have also seen congestion pricing work very well and painlessly in the other Portland. The freeway system needs to be upgraded, and it should be with the famous Brazil Bus Lanes, so people can see them zipping along like they do the Banfield Max. In the other Portland, much smaller than ours, they have this congesiton priciing, it is all done electronicly, my brother has a black box on his dash, which I accused him of having a radar detector last time I was home, you go on line and charge it up with your credit card, and you can automaticly have it renewed, when you pass under the sensors on the "ungridlocked" rush hour and it charges you appropriately for use of the road at various rates depending on the peak. There folks have altered shifts for working folks so they do not have to pay congestion pricing.

More if I may. Portland is the poster boy for mass transit, but it also was home to an emerging private transit industry in the early 1900's built around the private auto and then called jitneys. Unfortunately in an effort to protect the streetcar companies City Hall outlawed this private service and set the stage for decades of interference in the urban transit marketplace that still goes on.
As I read the NY Times today I cannot help but see the same picture only on a dfferent format of the typical government response to a problem. We've identified a
problem in one place, but we use our limited resources elsewhere.
Here's a link to a government report on the impact that the lack of transit has and a comment from that report., “(t)he lack of personal mobility has economic, social and human cost, such as higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue, greater welfare and medical cost, and limited social potential."
As J.K points out we subsidize the well to do. But what is less obvious is that we have erected barriers that keep people in poverty. First we deny them a choice by outlawing some services and then we fail to provide those same services with the government agency that replaces private industry.
Thanks for the opportunity Jack.

Wow. So---just to recap.

Jack has a nice day on the bus, at the bookstore and the snacky place.

Then, a whole buncha cranks climb up his tailpipe.

God forbid anyone should enjoy a simple pleasure like NOT DRIVING downtown.

The only way Jack could've pissed off more cranks would be if he rode a bike...............

Wow, JK. Didin't know I was annoying you. It sounded like you had some insights on what created for you a pleasurable experince in the pearl, and I was just looking for some details in hopes that I could re-create such an experience.

But, you're right. My questions were completely out of line. I could see how they could be annoying and lacking patience...

For those who dismiss you as a touchy crank, I've always thought those comments were without merit. Thanks for proving me mistaken...

"Few people use transit."

Interesting. The buses I use are always packed. The MAX trains I use are frequently packed. The bike lanes I use are often quite crowded. Are these "facts"? No, just observations—but they make as much sense as damning an essential urban system because "few people use it".

As far as driving subsidies go, I recall a *conservative* think-thank study recently that pegged the true cost of a gallon of gas—taking into account military and foreign policy and environmental damage—at $8-9. That's not even counting the numerous political favors done for Detroit over the years. Spare me the whining about the marginal tax we all pay for TriMet.

I have been a trimet rider for the 11 years I've lived here. My company pays a subsidy (sp?) so that I don't have to drive downtown and pay the outrageous parking fees. I ride both the max and the bus, and except for 2 incidents, I have not had any problems at all...and had I been driving every day for the last 11 years, I would imagine my incidents would be greatly increased. I get to relax and read each morning and evening and never worry about the traffic report!!


How many times were you hit up for money by streetpeople?
God Bless!

I like using transit, but it is almost impossibly inconvenient to get most of the places I go these days. When I used to work downtown, I took the bus. One morning an aggressive cyclist pulled in front of the bus and kept it creeping along at a couple miles per hour for several minutes. Every time the bus driver tried to get room to pass, the cyclist would flip him off. Talk about cranks. But I don't dismiss these guys. The athletic prowess and committment is admirable, if the comprehensive ideology a bit humorous. Yesterday, driving on SW Boones Ferry, I saw one of them spin out and land on his back. He pulled himself off the roadway, but it looked like he absorbed quite an impact, so as soon as I could, I pulled over and dialed 911. Guess he turned out to be OK.

"How many times were you hit up for money by streetpeople?"

Followed by:

"God Bless!"


Careful, your self-righteous, sanctimonious, spirituality is hanging out.

God Bless. That's the last line of most panhandlers' signs.

I wasn't panhandled at all. Then again, I never got south of Burnside.

Glad to hear you were spared dealing with the "unofficial" POVA greeters (aka junkies) normally patrolling downtown Portland. I must have sucker tatooed on my forehead.

I'm surprised you bothered with the ticket, free or not, Jack.

I rarely see people queing up to buy tickets for transit - most folks just hop on the MAX. Of course, taking a bus may be different - I imagine the drivers must check for payment. Bit MAX and the streetcar? Free rides, baby!

My comment was CRANKY??? Just because I think that Tri-Met is a joke and I have better things to do with my time? Geez, I even said, "Glad it worked for you" - folks do get touchy around here.

Like everyone else I get to pay for Tri-Met regardless of if I use it or not. I choose not to and have never regretted it. It's that personal choice thing.

Hope this post wasn't too cracky too.

Cracky, yes. But somewhat less cranky.

libertas: "Few people use transit."
JK: That is correct. Few people use transit - mass transit’s travel to work market share in the Portland area is 5.1% bus; 0.5% toy train. (source: Means of Travel to Work, Federal Highway Administration based on then 2000 US Census.

libertas: As far as driving subsidies go, I recall a *conservative* think-thank study recently that pegged the true cost of a gallon of gas—taking into account military and foreign policy and environmental damage—at $8-9.
JK: A good reason to DRIVE A SMALL CAR. Trimet buses get a bit less than 29 mpg (per passenger). A small car can easily do better than that. Save energy: get a small car and quit taking Trimet.

libertas: Spare me the whining about the marginal tax we all pay for TriMet.
JK: Sorry, I’ll continue to whine as long as Trimet costs more than just buying every daily Trimetcommuter a small car. (Which would also save energy.)

Rail is a non starter because it’s actual cost is about the same as cab fare and it kills people at a higher rate than either buses or cars.


The Pearl, Powells, and the Street Car are nice conveniences to many people. I personally like the Pearl and have used the street car dozens of times.

The catch is when I see politicians and political appointees forking over millions of pork barrel hook-ups in closed-door predetermined studies and our civic leaders call that the spirit of Portland.

The Pearl district suceeds despite not because because of the city of Portland (i.e. the government in charge of zoning).

As Bud Clark has said the treasure of our city is its people. Unfortunately a mayor writes a few billionairs unnecessary tax subsidies, bully the neighborhood activists and small businesses, and loot the property tax base destined for public schools and the Oregonian calls you a visionary leader.

"The catch is when I see politicians and political appointees forking over millions of pork barrel hook-ups in closed-door predetermined studies and our civic leaders call that the spirit of Portland."

I remember being at a Fourth of July picnic in the 1990s and seeing a bag of potato chips that was supposed to have captured "the spirit of the Northwest" and thinking, "Well, they don't taste THAT bad."

JK: "Trimet buses get a bit less than 29 mpg (per passenger). A small car can easily do better than that. Save energy: get a small car and quit taking Trimet."

Sheef: Any authority for that stat, bub? Smacks of liars, damn liars, and statistics to me. I would estimate that on my evening commute, there are anywhere from 10 to 15 riders on my Tri-Met bus at any given time from the moment we leave downtown. Your 29 MPG per-passenger stat would translate into a Tri-Met bus getting 2 to 3 MPG in actual terms. That doesn't sound correct. When I rode the #4 bus, the ridership was easily over 20 for most of the ride, rendering your stat even more odd.

I'm sure that there are some late-night and early-morning buses that run with very little in the way of ridership, which could reduce the MPG-per-rider stats. However, these runs often are the only means by which graveyard shift folks and other lower-income workers can afford to get to work. Plus, these off-hour runs can help keep intoxicated pub-crawlers off the road -- I have used the bus to get home from downtown bars on more than one occasion. Maybe these aren't peak hours for MPG calculations, but these off-hour runs are nevertheless for the public good.

You have to do a lot more to convince me that it is a bad thing to have 20-odd PDXers sitting in one vehicle (the bus) than it is to have them each sitting in traffic in their own car. Fewer drivers, less congestion, better for all, it seems. As I roll home along the crowded roads to Hillsdale, I don't imagine the single-car drivers would rather have me and all my fellow bus-riders in separate cars making the roads even more crowded. Or do you advocate making Barbur an eight-lane highway, too?

If nothing else, Tri-Met allows my family to be a one-car family. That saves us, conservatively, $750 per month in gas, parking, insurance, routine maintenance, plus the cost of the car - another $20K or so. And you know something, I don't have road rage and I get to read on the bus. So, I prefer to be both happier and better off financially . . . but maybe that's just me.

Sheef: Any authority for that stat, bub?
JK: I got the data from Trimet and did the calculation. It agrees with national data and the BTU per passenger mile that Mary Fetch later supplied. See

Sheef: I would estimate that on my evening commute, there are anywhere from 10 to 15 riders on my Tri-Met bus at any given time from the moment we leave downtown. Your 29 MPG per-passenger stat would translate into a Tri-Met bus getting 2 to 3 MPG in actual terms. That doesn't sound correct.
JK: Now add in all of the off peak empty buses.

Sheef: You have to do a lot more to convince me that it is a bad thing to have 20-odd PDXers sitting in one vehicle (the bus) than it is to have them each sitting in traffic in their own car. Fewer drivers, less congestion, better for all, it seems.
JK: With Trimet’s single digit market share during rush hour, it makes little difference in congestion except, perhaps, downtown.

Sheef: If nothing else, Tri-Met allows my family to be a one-car family. That saves us, conservatively, $750 per month in gas, parking, insurance, routine maintenance, plus the cost of the car - another $20K or so.
JK: At a taxpayer expense of around $300 per month. A new car only costs $300 per month or so, how do you manage to waste $750/mo? You have to break that SUV habit and get a small car.


Jack, I'm glad your buses were on time; it
must have been a fluke.

I don't drive, and use Trimet all the time.
In my experience, the bus is late over
50% of the time--and I don't mean just
2 or 3 minutes late.



$750 per month? Simple math, dude.

Let's assume you're right and a new car costs $300 per month. Let's add it up.

Downtown parking in my building: $200/month. Gas: $125/month. Insurance: $100/month. Pro-rated monthly expense for incidentals such as tires, oil, brakes and other maintenance (estimated, conservatively): $25. Looks like $750 to me, JK.

And if, as you say, my financial boon comes at a taxpayer subsidy of $300 (which includes my contribution, natch), isn't this the kind of broad, class-neutral (anyone can ride the bus, not anyone can afford to park downtown)

I have never owned an SUV, JK. Sorry that that solid fact doesn't fit into your cranky preconceptions. Maybe you, like the Bushies, try to make your own reality. Any time you want to come back to the reality-based community, we'd welcome you.

Again, you've done nothing to convince me that adding drivers and eliminating mass transit does anything other than increase my expenses, increase PDX's congestion and pollution, and make PDX generally a worse place to drive and live. I'll sacrifice a little convenience any day for that - although I don't begrudge you your right to sit idling in traffic while the Max flies by.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

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King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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