Transit Commuting 101: Portland, OR

Living Car-Free, Northwest, Transit Access, Uncategorized
Erin McAlister

By Erin McAlister, Marketing Coordinator, Alta Planning + Design

In honor of October being Alta’s transit month, one of my goals is to commute to and from work every day via public transportation. When I first moved to Portland, I only took public transportation. Somewhere along the way, my habits took a turn for the worse and I started depending on my car more. Needless to say, I’m two weeks in and completely hooked on transit again.

How I’ve missed you, public transportation! How I love thee! And in a completely unrelated shout-out to my girl Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways:

1. People watching. It really cannot be matched. You think you know how weird Portland is, then you take a busy route during rush hour. What’ll it be? Last week, I had a friendly conversation with a fellow about Portland’s housing crisis, and learned that he spent some time rebuilding draglines near my hometown in Iowa. So that happened.

2. Book time. I am plowing through my reading list – a list I haven’t touched for a couple months, shamefully enough. In the short two weeks since I’ve been commuting via transit, I’ve knocked out two books and am starting a third.

3. Being chauffeured to work. For $2.50 each way. No, it’s not a limo (it’s bigger!) It doesn’t have the cool automatic window between you and driver. But you get your own seat (most of the time) and gone are the negative, “Why don’t people know how to DRIVE?!?” thoughts that may otherwise plague a morning or evening commute.

4. Safety (when you’re someone who tends to zone out). Last month’s Bike Commute Challenge was a spectacular failure for me, I’ll admit. But even on the few occasions I did dust off my bike, I found I was way more cautious than usual. It was probably because it’d been a while since I’d ridden during high traffic times. Portland has some great low-stress bikeways that make cycling pretty comfortable in general, but you still have to be alert. Not on the bus! You can slip right into oblivion and the only real fear is missing your stop or sitting next to someone who is a little smelly.

5. Cost. Did I mention a 2-hour pass is only $2.50? A daily pass only $5? And because Alta supports alternative transportation, we can cut that cost in half because they reimburse us (their employees) 50% of our public transit costs. Thanks, Alta!

6. Pre-work preparation/post-work wind-down. I’m realllly trying to take a few minutes the night before work to prepare for the next day. When this doesn’t happen, I can count on a 25 minute bus ride the next morning to plan my day and collect my thoughts. As for after work, the short walk to the bus stop and the ride home allows for great down time. Even if the bus is crowded and I have to stand, I’m still not dealing with annoying traffic. I get to space out, figure out what I want to make for dinner, and think about how aggressively I’m going to cuddle my cats when I get home.

7. Stress management. Running for a bus, missing a bus, having a bus not show up or show up at the wrong time – all stressful. But why? When these things happen, I’m taking them as opportunities to not freak out. The only time I really need to worry is if I’m going to be late for a meeting or appointment – but in those cases, I need to plan ahead and show up early. So far I’m doing great – the real test will be when the bus flies by my stop without even pausing. Instead of going straight to and leaving an unproductive and overly-dramatic comment about how the course of my life has been drastically altered by poor bus service, I’m going to crack open my book and wait for the next one. Stay tuned to see how that works out…

Found Note

Another bonus of taking transit is the walk to and from the bus stop. Last night I found a note on my walk. Lists are great, unless your handwriting is so terrible you can’t read them.

Always tempting to stop in to Coava on my walk form the bus stop to the office. Coava is filled with uber hiperster who pour the tastiest, edigest cup of pour-over coffee in the city. They definitely don't use the word "cool".

Always tempting to stop in to Coava on my walk from the bus stop to the office. Coava is filled with uber hipsters who pour the tastiest, edgiest cup of pour-over coffee in the city. They definitely don’t use the word “cool.”


Erin McAlister

About Erin McAlister

Erin grew up and went to school in Iowa, where she studied English and Art. After moving to Portland in 2008, she worked as a project coordinator for a local non-profit environmental foundation. She shifted to Alta in 2011, where for several years she served as the company’s corporate administrative and human resources manager. In 2014, Erin made the jump to Alta’s marketing department. She lends her expertise as a skilled communicator and organizer to coordinate the proposal efforts for Alta’s Pacific Northwest region. She is adept at time management and working under pressure to delivery exceptional products for the many active transportation proposals in the region.

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