My very multimodal trip: a short but involved business trip

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by Matthew H Fish, Aug 19, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Aug 19, 2019 #1

    Matthew H Fish

    M

    Matthew H Fish

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    May 28, 2019
    Messages:
    58
    Last Thursday, I needed to go to Salem, Oregon to have my notarized degree apostilled by the Secretary of State's office. (Those words don't mean anything and you don't have to know what they mean).

    I am staying in Vancouver, Washington with a friend. So, of course, I thought of Amtrak. The Amtrak Cascades runs quite often, and this is one of a few places in the country where Amtrak can be used for semi-commuting service like this.

    So these were the steps on my trip:

    1. I walked to a bus stop in Vancouver, Washington and took a bus to downtown Vancouver, using my contactless card. (This step was extraneous, I could have made it to the train easily without the bus, but it saved me 15 minutes of walking). I then walked a few more blocks to the Amtrak train station. Cost: $1.80 on my HOP card.

    2. The train was 20 minutes late, but I boarded it. But the train was only going as far as Portland, which is about 15 minutes from Vancouver...for this part of the trip, I could have taken city buses to Portland. This and the next step cost $18 together.

    3. In Portland, we boarded a Thruway bus south. Since we were a little late, the bus took off almost immediately. It was a comfortable Thruway bus. It made one stop, in Woodburn, but basically just cruised down I-5, ending at the Salem Amtrak station, which is three or four blocks from the capitol building, and also the government office I needed to visit...

    (I did what I came to the city to do, and since the commuting buses back didn't start until later in the afternoon, I then ate lunch, walked around Salem, and visited the Minto-Brown park, before heading back to the Transit Center downtown)

    4. I boarded a Cherriots-SMART 1X bus, which is a commuter bus, peak-hours only, between Salem, and Wilsonville. Wilsonville is in general the last "suburb" of Portland. Cost: $3

    5. In Wilsonville, I boarded the WES Commuter Rail (peak hours only) to Beaverton. This was commuter rail, but takes the same fares as any other Tri-Met bus. Cost: $2.50, off my HOP card

    6. In Beaverton, I took the Tri-Met MAX east to downtown, and then north to Delta Park. (Normally I would have to transfer routes, but due to construction, they were switching routes around so W-E trains became N-S trains, which saved me some time. No additional cost for this, since I was still in the time frame for my HOP card.

    7. From Delta Park back to Vancouver, I got on the #60 C-Tran. I believe there was no cost for this, since it was still covered by my HOP card from boarding in Wilsonville.

    That is a lot of detail, isn't it? Compared to travelogues full of pictures of Glenwood Canyon, this might seem pretty boring. But I wanted to share this because it shows just how diverse transit is, and how transit categorizations aren't always intuitive.

    For example, on my trip, I took an Amtrak Train. That makes sense. I took a city bus. That also makes sense.

    But I also took a city train, a heavy rail train that was ticketed and ran as part of an urban agency transit network. I also took a city bus that went intercity distances. I also took an Amtrak Thruway bus.

    What is closer to being a "train": heavy commuter rail, ran by an urban transit agency, or a passenger bus, run by Amtrak? My bus driver for Amtrak, from Portland to Salem, scanned my pdf file of my ticket on my phone. My bus driver from Salem to Wilsonville had a farebox without a counter: just a metal box that you dropped your money into and the driver visually counted it.

    So, to sum up: across the basic idea of "getting from here to there", there were many different paradigms of transit.
     
  2. Aug 19, 2019 #2

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,180
    Location:
    South Florida
    Interesting...you are fortunate to have so many choices of public transport to get around...not all of us are so lucky...;)
     
  3. Aug 19, 2019 #3

    Matthew H Fish

    M

    Matthew H Fish

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    May 28, 2019
    Messages:
    58
    Yes, but none of those choices work super easily. The Amtrak Cascades runs often for an Amtrak train, but it is not exactly hop-on and hop-off. Even for Portland from Salem, which is only around 50 miles, someone would need to wait for several hours to return. Greyhound is the same, and it doesn't currently stop in Vancouver. The commuting bus service between Salem and Wilsonville only runs during rush hour, and even then, it doesn't go all the way to Portland. And it only worked for me because I am well versed on Portland transit...for someone who wasn't, it would be hard researching all these schedules.

    So it can be done, but it is still not something that anyone can do without preparation.
     
  4. Aug 20, 2019 #4

    City of Miami

    City of Miami

    City of Miami

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,066
    Location:
    Charlottesville VA
    Yes but all the info is available on the net .... One just has to look for it. The "directions" feature on Google maps is a good start point - not always complete or infallible but Google knows a lot. Moovit (android app) is another option.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  5. Aug 28, 2019 #5

    Matthew H Fish

    M

    Matthew H Fish

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    May 28, 2019
    Messages:
    58
    Theoretically, yes.

    But say you are a typical automobile centered person living in Salem, and you want to go to up to Portland for an errand. What do you do?

    1. Get in your car, and drive 45 minutes to downtown Portland, do your errand, and come back.

    2. Go online, and research the schedules for a bus line, a train line, and a light rail line, that involves waiting in two out of the way places, off your course, and that can only be done early in the morning, and takes one and a half hours? And then wait four hours in downtown Portland for the buses south, and repeat the 1.5 hour journey.

    It isn't that people can't figure it out...it is just that, why would they want to? Most people are smart enough to work out a three or four step process via googling, but it isn't going to be their first solution.
     
  6. Aug 29, 2019 #6

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Messages:
    135
    Location:
    Denver
    In 1965 you could have made this trip with Greyhound Lines from Vancouver through to Salem, but with a meal and reloading stop and driver change in Portland. Or, you could have ridden Vancouver City Lines, then paid another cash fare to Vancouver-Portland Bus Co. If you rode one of the five daily trains from Vancouver to Portland you ended up a mile away from the Portland Greyhound or Trailways stations (separated by a block between them). In the summer you could have taken the SP Shasta Daylight from Portland to Salem, but it didn't return northbound till after the last train and bus to Vancouver. Both Greyhound and Trailways covered the Portland - Salem time slots in both directions that you needed, but as in Portland they were in separate stations and neither handy to the SP Salem station. Greyhound honored SP tickets, but Trailways did not. I rode all of these, but fortunately lived in Portland so did one piece of your itineraries or another.

    It can be complicated, but until the 1973-74 Energy Crisis there was little interest in coordinating the then scattered pieces. Slowly, but surely, political leaders are getting their acts together. HB2219 to study extension of the commuter rail line from Wilsonville to Salem died in this Oregon Legislature, but it usually takes multiple tries. The 2019 photo shows the Oregon Electric Railway line extending south from Wilsonville. My father remembers riding the interurban electric trains through here to Salem. This was the route of the Supreme Court Special, which ran on the schedule that you needed. It featured a Parlor-Lounge-Observation with big-shot lawyers and judges smoking cigars and talking politics between Portland and Salem.

    P1050798 (2).JPG
     
    Bob Dylan likes this.
  7. Aug 31, 2019 #7

    anumberone

    anumberone

    anumberone

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    683
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Yeah, I m more into the turn key mode of transportation myself than the checking schedules, acquiring credentials and then playing the waiting game. I admire your patience, it seemed to go smoothly.
     
  8. Sep 5, 2019 #8

    Matthew H Fish

    M

    Matthew H Fish

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    May 28, 2019
    Messages:
    58
    Your posts in here have been surprising, because I have never met anyone who knows more about Pacific Northwest transit than I do. Even people in Portland I know are often not aware of basics of transit, so it is weird to meet someone with an encyclopedic knowledge.

    But what is interesting about your post is that Portland and Salem having a big transit gap between them seems to be a long-standing thing. What is interesting about this, for me, is that Portland and Salem are not that far apart. It is about the same in distance, and further in time, between Portland's southern suburbs and Salem, as it is between Portland's southern suburbs and its northern suburbs (in Clark County). But I've noticed that Portlanders tend to think of Salem as being further away than it is. But for whatever reason, there doesn't seem to have ever been the interest in uniting them into any type of transit system that isn't jury-rigged.
     
    Willbridge likes this.
  9. Sep 7, 2019 #9

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Messages:
    135
    Location:
    Denver
    During the 1973-74 Energy Crisis we had to start our own bus service for state employees working in Salem as a Commuter Club. It ran for several years after that, having reached a peak of three highway coaches during the 1975 legislative session. Greyhound had a commuter schedule via US99E, which mainly served commuters from south of Oregon City to Salem. There was no formal commuter service the other direction (into Portland from Salem).

    You are right about the perception of distance. People in Salem always talked about how convenient it was to Portland (and to the Coast and to the Cascades), but in terms of weekend excursions, not commuting. People in Portland were always surprised to learn that (in 1970's) there were over 100 members of the Commuter Club working in far off Salem.

    Regarding my background info: it is important to note that my lead end of the Baby Boom is also the last large group of Americans and Canadians who witnessed the decline and fall of the privately-owned rail and bus networks. Some of us were paying attention and wanted to know what was happening and why. Other people accepted the "it's progress" party line and followed other interests.

    Note that in this clipping "progress" was being touted within a year of Oregon inventing the gas tax. People from my father's "Greatest Generation" on have been taught not to wonder why Portland - Salem travel is difficult. It was rare until the mid-1960's for anyone to take an interest in the "whys".

    1920 05 19 - Good Roads.jpg
     
    Bob Dylan likes this.

Share This Page

arrow_white