Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Light Rail - 2011

Mollie writes:

I've been a proponent of mass transit since I was sixteen. I eschewed getting my driver's license on my sixteenth birthday. I paid to ride in a carpool when I needed a lift, rode the bus to my different jobs as a young single adult and managed to get by just fine. Part of this was my inherent cheapness and part of this was my commonsense.

My father bought a car for me when I turned 18, hoping that I'd change my mind. It was a 1957 Dodge Coronet. It was a 2 door wonder, and it looked like the Bat-mobile on steroids. I promptly gave it to my oldest sister - I knew I couldn't afford the insurance and maintenance.

And Tri-Met was working out for me perfectly well. The bus rambled all over the Portland metropolitan area - east to west, north to south. There wasn't a place I couldn't get to for .35$ and a transfer. I could read on the bus, see the sights and meet new people. And with the money I saved, I could afford a vacation or two where I sampled mass transit on Oahu and other Hawaiian islands. Life was sweet without a car.

I met my future husband in the mid-70's. Attitudes were changing about transportation - we'd had oil embargoes, gas had risen to over a buck a gallon and gas rationing was a curse on all of us - except for me, who continued to bus all over the place. I had opted to live in downtown Portland, where I worked, and not spend a cent on transportation since we had "fareless square" an area in downtown Portland where the bus was free. And I could afford that nice apartment: I wasn't spending money on car-payments, insurance, gas, maintenance and other complexities of car ownership.

During this time, Neil Goldschmidt was Mayor of the City of Portland. I thought he was just the smartest person - thanks to the generosity of fellow tax-payers, I was able to get just about anywhere I wanted to and not contribute to the gigantic carbon footprint one more gas guzzling vehicle would bring on the City of Portland. I honestly felt smug.

What I really didn't focus on was that all of us worked for mass-transit, even those of us who opposed it. After advocating for light-rail, Goldschmidt managed to have the Tri-Met Board of Directors to approve light rail in 1978. Goldschmidt continued as mayor until 1979, when Jimmy Carter elevated him to Secretary of Transportation.

Even with Goldschmidt's disappearance from the local scene, work on light rail continued. Construction began in 1982, and the first run of the MAX (the name chosen for the light rail system) took place in 1986. Goldschmidt was in Washington DC during that time, while all the heavy lifters back here shouldered the burden. When Carter left office in the early 80's Goldschmidt took a job as a VP at Nike.

I married my sweetie in 1977, and promptly got my driver's license since we moved to a home in Gresham where there was no walking access to Tri-Met. But I continued to carpool whenever it was available, or rode to work with John to BPA, taking a bus from NE Portland to NW Portland where I worked. Everything seemed to work out just fine. By the time I was a mom of two, the MAX was completed, and John and I took Peter and Roger for their first ride on the MAX. It was an event.

What I am building up to here isn't a folksy history of public transportation in the City of Portland in the latter quarter of the 20th century. What I am building up to is how those of us who were idealistic were seduced by a pedophile who accurately read the trend to mass transit and used it to enable himself to sexually exploit a child for 4 years.

I'll write more tomorrow about how it angers me that we were all so easily duped, and continue, to this day, to be duped by the political machine that is Portland.

More to come -

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