On Being a Transit-Assisted Pedestrian

I don’t think of myself as a transit rider, although I certainly ride transit frequently.

I don’t even think of myself primarily as a bicycle rider, although when I go to the office, it’s most often on my bike.

My primary identification is as a pedestrian. Most of my travel around the city is on my own two feet. Walking is my major form of exercise (I wear a pedometer and try to get 15,000 steps every day). And as a fellow neighborhood transportation activist reminded me recently, let’s not forget the benefit of all those unplanned social interactions that happen on the sidewalk (and on transit).

But my feet can’t get me everywhere. That’s where the idea of being ‘transit-assisted’ comes in. I think of transit (often the Streetcar) as being an ‘assist’ to my walking (or to my biking). Transit doesn’t substitute for those other modes but rather extends my range.

Many days I need to get from Northwest to downtown. How I get there depends on how much time I have. If I have 45 minutes or more, I can simply walk. If I have less time, I walk along the Streetcar alignment and hop on when it catches up to me (and I don’t worry about it passing me between stops, because I monitor how fast it’s catching up to me via the Nextbus displays).

Depending again on how much time I have, I decide how soon to get off the Streetcar, finishing up my trip again on foot. Part of the benefit of the real-time displays is that I’m never waiting around at a stop for more than a minute or two. If I have longer, I’m walking to the next stop!

It’s harder to do this with a bus, because there are no displays at the stops (or only at a very few). It turns out that you can monitor some of this information via cell phone (either by voice or if it’s web-enabled). But the interfaces are still challenging to navigate. Here at Portland Transport we have some ideas to improve these interfaces. Watch this space to see these ideas develop!

Of course, almost every transit rider uses their feet for part of their trip. How do you conceptualize the transition between being a pedestrian and being a transit user?

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