Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

A Tale Of Two Commutes

It was the worst of commutes, it was the even-worse of commutes.

Mine: Trudged (through five more inches’ worth of snow than any forecast had predicted) for twenty minutes to reach a MAX station at which dozens of people had already been waiting for quite some time, only to wait another twenty minutes for a train to arrive. (Note that three outbound trains’ operators made a point of assuring us that an inbound train would arrive “in a few minutes.” Few. Right.) Train arrived, it’s SRO of course, the floors were slick with snowmelt, it’s dark, the windows were fogged, but hey at least we were moving, right? Wrong. Each of the first six stops after I boarded involved a wait of some sort… including one which lasted twenty minutes… during which the operator left the train for about ten of those minutes. Eventually the train chugged its way to downtown Portland, through which the going was dreadfully slow due to a combination of problems on the Steel Bridge and idiot drivers who thought nothing of blocking a train’s path so they could sit partway through an intersection.

Transit time totals? Twenty minutes’ walk plus twenty minutes’ wait plus ninety minutes on the train itself (boarded at 5:40, disembarked at 7:10) plus the rest of the walk home equals two hours thirty minutes.

Which is nothing. Because…

Kylanath’s: Get off work at 3:40-ish. Arrive at bus stop to find people already waiting for a bus… any bus of several… to arrive. These people have phones with which they check Tri-Met’s transit tracking system, and with which they call Tri-Met, only to hear nothing about problems with any of the scheduled lines which service that stop. Lather, rinse, repeat… for four solid hours. Finally a bus, any bus, arrives. At 8:00pm. Driven by the driver who normally shows up at 4:00. After an unusual route through ugly-as-hell traffic, arrive downtown after 9pm and choose not to race for a #9 which might have serviced Broadway but probably was going to whip around at Union Station and head out Powell again. Instead, board a Green Line MAX train… which switches to being a Blue Line train at Union Station! (I imagine several passengers were a smidgen… annoyed.) A slow slog across the river and a massive delay at Rose Quarter later, and finally get off the train around 10:00.

Transit time totals: Let’s call it a quarter hour of getting to the bus stop, four hours waiting for a bus, another couple of hours actually riding vehicles, and another quarter hour walking home from the train station for a grand total of six hours thirty minutes.

In short: Way to go, Tri-Met! You were so very prepared, weren’t you?

(No, seriously, how do you not service a stop for four hours? Without adding any of the routes which service that stop on your so-called “service alerts” page, even? THE HELL.)

So, that was our Snowpocalypse 2009 experience. What about you?


  1. Wonderduck

    Good lord, all that from a few inches of snow? Six and a half hours? Unless her commute is somewhere around 100 miles, that’s hideously unacceptable.

    • GreyDuck

      Her commute’s only a bit more than half as long as mine, really, on a normal day. She works in one of the worst-served public transit areas of the metro area, though: “Everyone” drives in that part of town. It’s pedestrian-unfriendly, to boot.

      Still? Hideously unacceptable, you’re absolutely right.

    • Kylanath

      My commute, is only maybe the distance of 13 miles or so, if you include surface streets. 10 of that is freeway driving.

  2. Lil

    My commute of approx 12 miles took just under 2 hours (including about 45 minutes of time spent waiting for the MAX), thanks to my dogged persistence in cramming into a packed-solid train, and my husband’s gallantry in picking me up at the MAX station about 3-ish miles from home. Otherwise I’m sure it would have totaled well over 3 hours because I would have walked home from the MAX station.

  3. Shelley

    Oh goody, I like this game…

    Yes, your commutes sucked – particularly as they are a daily occurrance that went HORRIBLY wrong yesterday and I have been there and seriously feel your pain on those…. But how about my “commute” 😀

    -Left Seattle at 10am-ish (heading back home to San Jose, CA for those unaware prior to this post)
    -Arrived at Kylanath’s workplace at 1:15pm and took her to lunch, snow begins midway through lunch…yay?
    -Got grand tour of said workplace, bought tea, got gifties, headed out at ~2:30pm or thereabouts.
    -Driving Sount on I-5 – snow, rain, heavier rain, slushy rain, drizzle, snow, etc until about 5pm or so. Did I mention that this is all me driving? (He offered, but it’s my car, not great weather, and he has less than a year of practice with a manual transmission car – thanks, I’m good driving a while, really)
    -Get to less than 20 miles from the CA state line at about 6:45pm and see a traffic alert sign…”Blizzard conditions ahead, freeway closed 17 miles ahead through Northern Cal.” (give or take anyway) Frack.
    -Call various friends in an attempt to catch one at home to see if there is any way to re-route around the road-closed bit – have chains with us but not *really* equipped for winter and application of chains as far as currently carried and worn clothing options. Can put on chains if I need to without HEAVY cloat and gloves, but it’ll suck, and no towel to wrap chains in once I’d be able to take em off the car again, again suck. But! I CAN if I have to. Find out Kylanath is stuck waiting for the bus that seems to not ever want to arrive, other friends are out to dinner or otherwise unreachable. Remember 511 for information on the road, yay! Okay, so US101 is open but will require about a half hour of travel Northbound on I-5. Well, backtrack sucks, but doable. Other option is wait overnight in that town (Medford I *think*) and hope that the roads are open and clear enough in the morning. Also note in the weighing of options that Runtly is at home awaiting a pill that we knew would be late, but…over a day late…not so good (*could* amount to us arriving home to peed on bedding or anything else). Decide to try reroute…
    –Additional notes: When stopping for dinner at 7pm to eat and plan next options, GPS said we should arrive home at about midnight.
    –GPS was reprogramed to send us back up I-5 about 27 miles, then over via 199 to US101. This all amounted to a new ETA of…wait for it…6am. Yeah – added 6 hours to estimate, though dinner was about an hour to ninety minutes of that.
    -all the backtracking was clear weather-wise, as was the trip out 199 and down 101 – some rainy bits, definite foggy bits (particularly through the very coastal bits of 101 and some of the foresty bits), but not a hint of snow – yay for the coast.
    -Arrived home at: 7:20am (give or take)

    Totals: 3.25 hours of driving to get to a bit South of Portland, 1.25 hours break for lunch and social time, 4.5 hours of driving, 1.5 hours for dinner and reroute planning, 11 more hours of driving to get home (only stops other than the two longer stops were under 10 minute stops for gas and bathroom breaks) 21.5 hours including stops or 18.75 hours not counting stops over 10 minutes. For what we expected would be a 13-14 hour drive (not counting stops) – and we would not have stopped for the dinner stop (woulda grabbed something to eat in the car) had we not had to stop to plan a detour reroute.

    My own fault here – but I drove all but about 3-4 hours of all that. On about 5 hours of sleep Monday night. The house sitter discussion will happen elsewhere, but after all that – I only got about 5 hours of sleep today. Hooray for 24 hour awake days? *thud*

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