Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another event fiasco by jeff rose

Every time I have to endure driving a bus anywhere near any sort of
event- this time the Portland Marathon- I end my workday completely
irate. I'm too tired to rant too long about this one but some
details would, I suppose, be useful. On sundays I drive the 4 for a
couple of round trips. I begin relatively early picking up my work
outbound at 82nd Ave around 10:30. After arriving at Gresham, I
have a meager break of about 12 minutes if I'm there on time and the
remaining breaks average about 20 minutes each. There are some
modest detours downtown which have been modified due to
circumstances to make them pretty arduous treks around the downtown-
in all the several detours take roughly an additional half an hour
per trip. So with the simplest of mathematical equations you can
determine that 30 (minutes of delay) - 20 (minutes of break at the
end of the line) = -10 (or what one might refer to as a complete
systematic break down of the line 4 which left passengers waiting
often times for an hour or more for a bus.)

Nothing really tragic happened to us drivers- most of us took
something of a break when we arrived at the end of the line- I did
at least. I spent some of one trip deadheading per instruction by
dispatch and had actually a half an hour of break before my last
trip! I do feel bad for the passengers though. Many of our riders
had to wait more than an hour at times to catch a bus. One actually
whitted a big wooden dowel into a stake and laughingly gave it to me
when he boarded. I had some laughs with some of them- others
weren't so easy to console. All in all, it really isn't fair to
them that we promise them 15 minute headways and then, due to really
crappy planning for events, make them wait as "drop off only"
after "drop off only" bus passes them up leaving them to wait for
the next bunch of busses to maybe pick them up- or maybe not.

Talk about bus bunching. On both of my full trips out to Gresham, I
first caught up with my leader (keep in mind I'm 35-40 minutes late
on my first trip, about 15 minutes late on my second) then we both
catch up with HIS leader. About the same time my follower catches
up to ME! Four busses. In one place! That's 1/3 of the 4's in the
entire system all in the same place (keep in mind too that half of
the rest are probably deadheading or running "drop off only" or "not
in service").

So one question might be- why does the system fall to pieces every
time we have to deal with an event? Another might be- does Trimet
consider this a problem? Is there anything we can do beyond laying
out the detours and crossing our fingers that our regularly
scheduled service will somehow be able to survive? Does anyone look
at events like this and how different lines function and ask "what
could we do better?"!!! I really can't understand how this kind of
fiasco can repeat itself over and over again and we don't seem to
learn anything.

I have some ideas and other drivers today had some good ones too.
One suggested turning the Fesseden busses around at the Rose Quarter
and depending on MAX to connect passengers between downtown and the
Rose Quarter. The Division buses could come in and out of downtown
like the 14- into town across the Hawthorne bridge, down 2nd and
back over the Morrison Bridge. That's just a glimpse of the kind
of thinking that would have to go on if Trimet is going to learn to
function during events. What are the merits of that idea and the
problems? How would other lines have to be managed? What about a
number of shuttle busses that can skirt around the event perimeter
and connect to each line away from the traffic and the delays?

In any case, things gotta change. What about all the people that
are depending on our service that aren't even anywhere near
downtown? Why should someone out in East Portland that is going
towards Gresham be screwed by an event that they might not even know
is going on? Why hasn't there been a bus in the last 75

OK I'm really tired now! I think I might fill out a yellow card.


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