The Social Life of Transit

This evening on my streetcar ride home, a young woman attending the pastry program at the Culinary Institute boarded and shared her day’s class work with everyone around her, giving the whole train a sugar high.

Has that ever happened on your car commute?


31 responses to “The Social Life of Transit”

  1. I got stuck in the wake of a Critical Mass once. Someone from Pedaller’s Express was giving all the stuck motorists free sodas.

  2. I was stuck in construction in Northern California one time. They had someone on a ATV going up to cars as the reached the queue, telling them how long the anticipated wait would be, and handing out bottles of water. Not as tasty as pastries, but much more helpful.

  3. I have actually had this type of fortunate experience on transit a lot. Mostly in Portland, not so many in other places.

    I have not had experience this positive while driving, EVER. Even Aaron’s and Paul’s experiences seem to lack the sugar high and the general luxury of actual company.

    On the MAX a group of people, albeit in a relative low tone, actually started picking a song and such on the way home one day. It beat the heck out of the other end, which had a screaming baby. I guess that shows the opposite ends of the awesome and annoyance of public transit.

    On the streetcar I have seen everything from carolers to the “sugar high” to people that I meet at random and actually end up in conversation and drinks later.

    However, the most positive transit experience is the one that landed in the bank. Through overheard conversation I introduced myself to a person looking to have some software development done. I ended up being that person and brought that project to completion.

    All on the MAX or the streetcar. Don’t even get me started on the crazy bus stories. But that is why I started a blog to write about such things. Just been a writing slacker as of late. :)

  4. Yesterday, coming home on the 75 bus, the person next to me threw up. Has that ever happened to you on your car commute? (but I’ll continue to take the bus over my car!)

  5. When a manager at my former employer retired, his fellow bus commuters thru a party for him on his last day’s ride in. Only on transit.

  6. Actually. I was taking a young lady and her child home. She picked the child up as the kid was having a tissy. As she turned after the kid settled down to place the child back in the kid seat…

    upchucked all over the drivers side front seat, problem was is I was driving!!!!!

    So yeah, I’ve been puked on in the car.

    However, on the bus I have always just moved away from said people. Can’t move out of the way in the car. :(

    Lenny – AWESOME. That’s a transit story.

  7. Over two years ago, my partner was driving a friend home from PCC as a courtesy. The car was relatively new, and still had that “new car smell”.

    The friend was a bit under the weather, but she didn’t feel particularly ill. Somewhere along highway 26, without warning, she began projectile vomiting.

    It got on the dash, hit the glove box (and somehow got in through the tiny gap at the opening), the seat, and all over the floor, before he could safely pull over to the side of the highway.

    The good news is that we had purchased optional “all-weather heavy duty” floor mats which are all rubber with high ridges… they can actually contain about a gallon of gunk.

    The bad news was that a few days later, even after thoroughly cleaning, the bad smell had not fully receded. We didn’t realize why until the next time someone sat in the passenger seat and pulled out the seat belt… the belt of course had got hit too, and when she exited the vehicle, it had wound up and the mess had gotten into the seatbelt recoil mechanism.

    So I had to take all the channel guides off, and clean the belt and mechanism.

    Oh, and on top of that, the passenger door stereo speaker got hit on the grille, and that took quite of bit of work to get to.

    But eventually we got it all cleaned.

    I can’t tell you how pleased I was when, just last month, I picked up a friend from out of town at the airport, and he remarked “ahh, that new car smell”. Not bad for a vehicle nearly 4 years old, and especially good considering the history!

  8. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over how much I hate TriMet for allowing strollers, starting with the introduction of the 300-series MAX cars. WORST IDEA EVER. Hire a sitter, the rest of us don’t want to listen to your squealing brat or compete for space with your jogging stroller.

  9. Actually, I’ve heard that the riders on the Line 31 express trip have really become a group, celebrating birthdays and holidays and have had multiple newspaper articles written about them.

  10. As the father of several small children, I gotta cry foul, Paul–transit vehicles are public places, and strollers (especially the collapsable kind) are no worse than bicycles, portable shopping carts, wheelchairs, or other things which might be brought on board. (Are strollers covered under ADA?)

    I don’t know if you are a kid-hater or not. Some people don’t like children, and seem to take great offense at being around them, especially when the kiddies are acting up. Which is fine–don’t have them, avoid establishments which cater to them, and patronize adult-only venues. But many of us do choose to have them, and we have the right, and expect to exercise said right without reprisal, to take them into public accomodations.

    Paul, what would you think of someone who wrote a sentence like “I’m not sure I’ll ever get over how much I hate TriMet for allowing wheelchairs, starting with the introduction of the 300-series MAX cars. WORST IDEA EVER. Hire a nurse, the rest of don’t want to listen…” The sentence is so loathsome I won’t even bother to finish it. At any rate, you seem to hate a lot of things–you might find life more enjoyable if you removed the gigantic chip from your shoulder.

    Just saying.

  11. OK, before this heats up: Paul posted an inflammatory remark and goaded a proportionate, but personal response.

    The laws of tit-for-tat have been satisfied, let’s now drop this and move on.

  12. Honestly, it’s not comparable. Children should be seen, not heard. Open strollers were banned on TriMet from the time it opened until the Series 300 cars on the MAX line were introduced, and giving $80 fines to violators made sense (since stroller users typically block aisles, wheelchair zones and bicycle zones, and fail to yield said zones to designated users). Sure, bring your kid along, but if your kid starts crying or becoming a nuisance, get off the train or bus, calm the kid down and catch the next one. It’s not appropriate to remain on board with a screaming child, and poses a serious danger to all other passengers on a bus due to the distraction to the driver. Failing to fold your stroller before boarding is never appropriate. I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I originally wrote; I’m under the assumption that most parents who take TriMet are not responsible parents given my experience with children on TriMet.

    If you’re setting the example, great, more power to you. Encourage your fellow parents to do the same, and TriMet will be a better place for us all.

  13. “I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I originally wrote”

    Moderator: There seems to be a lot of that going on with your comments. I suggest that you rethink your commenting style so that the chances of this happening again are reduced.

    – Bob R.

  14. Paul,

    Your latter post I can agree with, mostly. Of course, banning strollers from transit still strikes me as unwise, as with toddlers its one of the safer ways to transport them.

    Babies can often be carriedd without much fuss; older children can be asked to walk and expected to not dart into the street, but with a toddler, you really want them belted into a stroller when carrying them is not a reasonable option.

    Of course, for those who need to take small kids on transit (and must walk a distance at either end of the journey), a collapsible unbrella stroller works best. Hold the child while on the vehicle and stow the stroller; and unstow it when its time to get off. (Even if the stroller is not collapsible, the kid should not sit in it while the vehicle is in motion).

    And certainly, screaming children on the bus is a bad situation, and the advice to get off and let the child cool down is good–although it sucks for the parent if its not frequent service.

    But if the ADA and such doesn’t cover strollers, I’m actually surprised–being able to bring them on board is as much an accessibility issue for parents with small children, as wheelchairs are for the disabled. One could argue that people choose to become parents–but then again, a good many disables persons are disabled due to their own foolishness; we don’t distinguish between them and those who are disabled through no fault of their own.

    Otherwise, if nothing else, it’s one more reason to drive everywhere.

  15. Chris has the right idea with this post. All the great things we learn and see on public transportation. Children can learn a lot on public transportation, how to behave, how to ride safely. My children love to ride the bus and MAX, and I can tell it helps them appreciate Portland the good and the bad.

  16. Chris says:
    “Has that ever happened on your car commute?”…but I have driven between Portland and Seattle a number of times, especially when I worked there for four years (but only commuted once every two weeks) and I could always depend upon the volunteers at the Rest Areas for free coffee and cookies. Is that close?

  17. Yesterday, coming home on the 75 bus, the person next to me threw up. Has that ever happened to you on your car commute?

    Well, sort of. When I was a kid, I was very susceptible to motion sickness and threw up in the car quite frequently. I never had that problem riding the bus, even when I was still having motion sickness problems in the car.

  18. The ADA doesn’t cover strollers because children aren’t disabled. I’m afraid I have zero sympathy for parents on this issue. While their effort to use public transit is commendable, their failure to plan for the expense of having kids, including childcare when dragging the kids along is inconvenient for themselves and/or the rest of the world, doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part or reason for me to accommodate their situation or tolerate their disruption.

    Props to Fred Meyer for confining kids to a soundproof box while parents shop. More places can learn from this example: Now that you can’t smoke in restaurants, and since most restaurants are still segregated, it’d be nice if the host(ess) asked “Child or non?” up front (and assigning parties with kids to the back corner away from the rest of the patrons).

    The public is under no obligation to tolerate their children beyond what is required to take them to and from school. Parents who think otherwise are selfish and should have a little more forethought before taking on an expensive 18+ year obligation that can’t be financed.

  19. I have one toddler and it’s a lot of work. Scotty, I have a lot of respect for a guy that can manage a multitude of children.

    We visited San Francisco and rode the MUNI buses mid-day with our toddler with our fold up stroller and it went fine. She had a great time riding the bus for the first time (other than the bus at PDX to the terminal) and it seems like some of the other passengers enjoyed seeing someone that was enthusiastic about riding a bus.

    Making transit easier for families is a great idea because it is the way a lot of tourists get around a town and Portland gets a lot of tourists. I never see them when I’m on a C-Tran Express bus, but I do see them on MAX. Plus, it’s one less mini-van off the road on the way to a Timbers game or the zoo.

    Lastly, I’d just like to comment to Paul. Paul, it seems like you do not like being around children. I can confirm for you that they are very expensive.

    I don’t know where (or if) you work, but those kids will grow up one day to be the customers of your employer, so if people stop having kids you can kiss your job goodbye as customers disappear. Also, if you plan on collecting social security one day, or even plan on riding Tri-Met, which relies on an employment tax (and hence future employees) for funding, you should be thanking your lucky stars that some of us are having and paying for children that will grow up to pay social security tax and indirectly pay Tri-Met payroll tax.

    In a sense, you could be considered a “free rider” if you don’t have any children and plan on collecting from social security in future decades as Scotty and I are now paying thousands of dollars to raise those children that will support you in your old age (and keep those Tri-Met buses moving for you).

  20. With 9 billion people on this planet and a total out of work rate around 30% in this state, I think it’s safe to say that we can go for quite some time without breeding as a species and just be fine for numbers. Besides, children might be the future, but today belongs to us.

  21. Then I guess we may as well forget Global Warming and Peak Oil. Live for the moment!

    Now where were those people who were going to contribute to my social security payouts in a couple of decades…?

  22. Way to twist words again, Chris. The next generation gets to shut up and wait it’s turn. Doesn’t mean we need to consume the whole planet in the mean time.

  23. via @Dan_Christensen on Twitter “Rainy night in Portland, best part of run tonight was 2 guy on bus with ten pizzas. They shared with bus. one slice of cheese, fantastic.”

  24. Okay – as a childfree woman who has never ruled out the possibility of having a child, has studied early childhood development and taken parenting classes, I feel the need to point out that there is a happy medium in this discussion, and that while there are some flaws in the messaging, both sides have points.

    We should celebrate the positive attributes of children and strive to understand what motivates them to behave well, or behave badly – so that we can guide their choices. This guidance should be vigilantly applied in situations where the child is participating in public life. We should also encourage the participation of children in public life, so that we are able to provide them ample opportunity to interact with adults in a positive fashion, allowing these children, in turn, to mature into successful adults.

    Children are going to behave badly, on occasion, in public. There are going to be brief outbursts, points where they simply act like young primates (the monkey screech comes to mind) etc. Where the transgression occurs is when the parent fails to engage with the child at the time of the bad behaviour, and guide the child towards behaving well. There are a lot of parents that simply shut down their awareness both in restaurants and on public transit, and the pattern tends to be a positive feedback loop. The child does something annoying and even unsanitary, messy or destructive (loud noise – crumbling crackers whatever) and rather than parenting the child, the parent blocks out the behaviour – which leads the child to escalate etc. etc.

    Ignoring your child is fine if you’re in the privacy of your own home and you’ve reached a saturation point. However, it is never okay when the consequence of this ignoring is that other people have to suffer through and be affected by your child’s behaviour. And honestly, when you have a difficult child, sometimes you are simply hypnotized into blocking them out. Other adults should wake the parent up at that point and get them to tend to their responsibility. The parent, in turn, should be gracious in that situation, rather than defensive.

    SUV strollers are another subject – but my opinion is, if you are practicing common courtesy, you make every effort to minimize the space required for both yourself, and any children you may be bringing along, in any public situation. Sometimes the stoller is the most appropriate tool (provides mobility to help clear areas and travel to tasks quickly) sometimes, it’s better to consider carrying your child in a pack or wrap (this works well for babies) or simply leaving them at home with another adult until they are able to walk from activity to activity in a reasonable manner. Either way, it’s a judgment call, and we as adults should trust that the other adult is trying their best to exercise common courtesy – unless it’s obvious that they are not. If they are obviously simply imposing themselves on others, then enough “excuse me” comments should get the message across.

  25. Chris says:
    “Now where were those people who were going to contribute to my social security payouts in a couple of decades…?”

    Now, that’s why we need to start saving money somewhere.

  26. Chris… we Xers (I’m assuming your one or thereabouts) are probably screwed. We gotta play for the boomers retirement despite being a small generation, and when its our turn to retire, the millennials will probably throw us under the bus. :)

  27. Ahhh, c’mon you guys. The ship may be sinking but if we throw some useless weight out it won’t sink as fast!! It’s not totally hopeless.

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