My Commute: Chris Smith

Editor’s Note: We hope to make ‘My Commute’ or ‘My Trip’ a regular Sunday feature. We’re looking for stories of how people get around the region in creative or noteworthy ways.

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Perhaps the most salient feature of my commute is that most days, I don’t! I live in NW Portland and work for the Xerox Office Group in Wilsonville. Four days out of five, I telecommute from my home (or anywhere else I can find a high-speed connection for my laptop).

But you have to see your co-workers sometimes, and Thursdays are staff meeting day for me.

Since I haven’t seen much of my car (a Geo Metro) since my step-son turned 17 (he uses it to commute to school and work) my Thursday commute trip is decidely multi-modal.

In the morning, I hop on my bike (a very heavy cruiser, but with fenders and a chain guard making it great for street clothes) and pedal down (literally a slight downhill – about 1.5 miles) to the Pearl district, where I pick up the TriMet #96 at the start of the transit mall. Some mornings the two bike racks fill up at the first stop!

45 minutes and $1.70 later (actually, I buy the 10-ticket books and it’s a little cheaper), I’ve read the morning papers and am at Commerce Circle at the end of the line. Wilsonville has done a great job of putting in bike lanes as they have redeveloped their streets, so another quick pedal (about 2.5 miles) across the freeway and I’m at my desk at Xerox (bike lockers available, but since I’m only doing this one day a week, I just use the rack by the door). A total of 4 miles of light pedaling mean I’m not sweaty and don’t need a shower, I can go right to staff meeting.

At the end of the day, the headphones go on to catch the news on NPR and I make use of another great transit system, SMART (South Metro Area Rapid Transit). The SMART 201 line picks me up at my office and deposits me and my cruiser at the Barbur Transit Center 30 minutes later – and it’s FREE.

From the Transit Center, it’s a half mile downhill (with bike lane), a slight uphill (intermitant bike lanes) and then downhill for five miles into downtown. If I want to get some exercise I can push myself here. Then there’s the adrenalin rush at the two bridges on Barbur where the bike lane goes away and I have to merge back into traffic :-)

Downtown I can either speed through on 4th Ave (the slight downhill makes it easy to keep up with the signal progression, I generally head for the middle lane and take the lane, the cars don’t mind because I can keep up with the cars in front of us). Or, I can drop down to Waterfront Park for the scenic route. Then it’s back up through the Pearl to Northwest in time to get over to Friendly House for the weekly CSA pickup. Total bike miles for the return trip, about 8.


8 responses to “My Commute: Chris Smith”

  1. Chris’s use of SMART brings up a question I’ve had for some time, but haven’t really explored–how far can one get on city buses in Oregon? Can you use city bus connections to get to, say, Salem or Eugene?

  2. I don’t know about Eugene, but you can get to Salem at commute times. The SMART 1X connects from downtown Wilsonville, and Commerce Circle (where the TriMet #96 terminates) to Salem.

    You can also make connections to Canby either from Wilsonville (again, SMART) or at Oregon City on CAT (Canby Area Transit).

    I also believe there’s an Estacada/Clackamas County rural system, but I don’t have any personal experience with it.

  3. My understanding is that Wilsonville did opt out of TriMet. One of the unique challenges of regional politics is balancing transit service in the dense center (more cost effective) against the periphery (needed to have a complete network, but less cost effective).

    But I agree that SMART does a great job.

  4. “Is Wilsonville one of those cities tha kicked out TriMet, then provided better service for less money?”

    SMART is free because Wilsonville has a large number of jobs and can collect large amounts of transit payroll tax compared to the amount of service it needs to provide in a small community.

  5. “how far can one get on city buses in Oregon? Can you use city bus connections to get to, say, Salem or Eugene?”

    The Tillamook County Transportation District runs buses daily between Portland from Tillamook. This really is intercity service (70 miles one-way), but we do it with the same buses that we use in-county, so I guess you could call it a “city bus” connection. We connect in the metro area at Union Station/Greyhound, Sunset TC, and at 185th Avenue.

    Hopefully in the next year Sunset Empire (Clatsop county) will extend services south several times a week from Seaside to Manzanita, so we’ll be connected to the north up the coast as well.

    North Coast aside, I think the Willamette Valley could use more & better transit connections between services.

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