Milwaukie City Council Rides MAX

Deborah Barnes

So, the five of us met at Metro yesterday for an first-hand look at the Max line. Tri-Met planned our trip with Metro folks accompanying us for details on Transit Oriented Development (TOD), safety issues, and a close-up look at how the system works. We boarded a bus that took us from Metro through Interstate Avenue to the Vanport Station. Along the way we got off the bus to look at the stations and the businesses along the way of the light rail lines.

I had a chance to break away from the group as we walked by a school directly in front of the rail line. As one of the teachers of the charter school walked out I had a chance to ask him about noise, safety, and Max overall. His response: light rail is an integral part of their education. The train alarms cannot be heard as the children learn in their classrooms. The students take the Max to various locations for field trips. Safety? The teacher says he has never had problems and they are glad for the location close by.

While on MAX, I talked with a young man with the security company. He is a former member of the armed services wanting to become a police officer. His neon jacket may be his only weapon but he says the job, which normally includes working until late at night, has not been eventful. He does admit other officers have had to deal with problems.

Then I sat down next to a teenaged girl. It is dark now on our trip and I ask her the question anyone would ask..."Aren't you scared to ride the MAX when it is dark?" Her response is she usually rides with her boyfriend but she is not afraid. She comments that the MAX usually has more passengers when she rides. Tonight, there only seem to be 30 of us on the one portion of the train traveling quickly as we pass the lights shining from PIR.

I also had long chats with the head of security and the Portland officer who is now in charge of the folks who ride the MAX. Both admit openly that there have been problems in the past and they are glad they can deal with the folks who become obnoxious while riding.

The only concerns while on the tour...the stations are much too big for Milwaukie's size. The fare validation stations did not work ...either of them...at the Vanport stop.

The folks we saw ride the MAX were a mixture of ethnicities, backgrounds, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. It was a good chance for all of us to see the future and for a moment or two see through all the hype.

Comments

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    You would get a better read on the light rail if you plan a trip on MAX without the help of TriMet and metro. By letting TriMet and Metro plan your trip, you got the super-duper-sanitized version - one that shows only one side. I suggest you ride the Red or Blue lines through Farless Square by yourself (or with a friend) and give us a count of how many bums ask and/or harrass you for change and cigs, and how many times you get and earful of F words and the like. Be also sure to take a look outside as you ride (especially on the Banfield) and count how many bums like to relieve themselves in front of a passing train.

    Good times for all...

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    I ride through fareless square all the time, and the answer to your questions is "almost never." Truly. And lest you think it's just because I'm a bigger guy, I don't see it happening to others, either.

    Are you saying trimet planted the people Ms. Barnes talked to on her own?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    You have to ride during off-peak hours when the commuters are not there. Maybe that is why TriMet wants to have farless rides only during the day. They should eliminate Fareless Square all together, but since I am just a lowly rider to TriMet, I won't be heard unless I get beaten within an inch of my life.

    TriMet didn't plant anyone - they just know when and where to place something like this 'special ride' to get the maximum positive spin on their business (AKA 'propaganda').

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    I make a long commute on the Yellow and Red MAX lines four days a week and ride the bus and all three MAX lines a fair amount outside of those days also.

    It's my observation that the problems that exist on all of the public transportation system tend to reflect the problems of the areas where they go.

    I think I've heard "the F-word" maybe once or twice in more than a year of 10-12 hours of MAX commuting a week. When I ride the bus in North Portland, I hear it more often than not. It comes with living in a diverse community and, on balance, I much prefer that to the alternative. For seven years I've been regularly riding the bus line that is historically probably the most problematic in the system and never once have I felt unsafe.

    I get asked for spare change sometimes on the MAX downtown and occasionally on the bus or MAX in North Portland--but not nearly as much as I do walking downtown. I turn them down politely and it is much more common for them to say "thank you" when I do than it is for them to react in even a minor negative way--mostly they just move on. Portland's panhandlers are pretty well behaved, on the whole, if you are respectful to them, and panhandlers on public transportation tend to be even better behaved than on the streets. They know their business well enough to understand that if they are obnoxious in asking on a bus or train they have just alienated that whole lot of potential donors.

    I don't blame the mayor of Gresham, et al, for wanting more help with law enforcement. As rising costs push poverty out of the inner city the problems that go with poverty end up in Gresham and other similar areas. The implication that the MAX is creating those problems is just politics, were it to go away tomorrow the problems would remain.

  • Unit (unverified)
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    I also ride MAX during off-peak hours throughout the day, mainly fareless square, and if Eric is referring to these times, then he is making huge exaggerations. I can't speak for the situation late at night, but 7-7 the problems are few and far between.

    Aside from a minority of police officers and others who are entitled to their personal views, my experience has been that leaders of cities on MAX and its riders alike consistently support it. They may not think it's perfect, generally wanting improved frequency, reliability, and in some cases safety, but the support is pretty much unanimous. People like Eric appear to be exaggerating the negatives to support whatever personal agenda they have.

    Or, perhaps, he is referring to the late night (after 10) situation? I haven't ridden MAX much this late, but my experience on other transit systems is that it can be less comfortable late at night. Please Eric, help my understand how your experience can be so much different than mine.

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    I should add that my commute mostly does not happen during regular commuting days/hours.

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    You have to ride during off-peak hours when the commuters are not there. Maybe that is why TriMet wants to have farless rides only during the day. They should eliminate Fareless Square all together, but since I am just a lowly rider to TriMet, I won't be heard unless I get beaten within an inch of my life.

    I ride through the fareless square at all hours of the day and night and I've never seen anything that Eric talks about.

    However I have been asked for change and cigarettes many many times while walking downtown, perhaps Eric would support charging a toll for using the sidewalks, so that we don't have to be around those vagabond ragamuffins.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    They are not ragamuffins - they are parasitic bums that need to get a job and contribute to society in a constructive manner instead of bothering people for thier 'livelyhood' simply because they choose not to be a civilized human being.

    Also - The 'F' word is not a civilized thing to do at any time or place. Excusing it away by saying "it comes with living in a diverse community" (Read: It's our culture and we can't help saying that word) simply degrades humanity to the point of no return to civility.

  • John Bromley (unverified)
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    My wife and I ride the MAX line in both peak and non-peak several times a month and we have never felt unsafe. We ride from Cleveland Station (end of the line) in Gresham to Portland and back -- so we get a chance to experience the whole East side system.

    Sure there are some homeless folks keeping warm on the train. And, of course, there are a few drunk folks later at night as they get home from the bar. (I sure would rather they ride the MAX than try to drive in their condition.)

    Yes, you will hear the F... word too often, but it is a cultural thing and it does not affect your safety.

    Should MAX fix the machines? Have more ticket checkers? Have better lights at the stations? Increase the number of police on the trains? YES to all of those questions.

    We have a great system here in the Metro area. Let's not lose it by panic.

  • Bob R. (unverified)
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    Eric leads off with gems like these: "they are parasitic bums that need to get a job and contribute to society in a constructive manner" ... "they choose not to be a civilized human being."

    And the bemoans the lack of civility in humanity.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I was thinking the same thing, Bob. But I wouldn't mind if bus drivers consistently enforced a rule not to curse, and kicked off people who persisted. Also, just telling people to speak quietly instead of bothering the entire bus with their mindless rants would be nice. Whether they're on their cell phones or just talking to their neighbor, folks on the bus seem to think the entire vehicle needs to know about their problems.

    While I can get by fine with all these rude people, I resent that they push away others from the transit system.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Also, is it even legal to panhandle on TriMet?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    According to their own bylaws and policy, it is illegal to solicit, ask for change, or even ask for signatures inside any TriMet vehicule - but they don't enforce it (and never will) because they are too afraid of being sued by these parasites and their gutless and opportunistic lawyers. TriMet would rather turn a blind eye to it so that they can increase ridership at the expense of human civility.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    Eric lives in a dark fantasy world. It's silly to follow him there.

  • Bob R. (unverified)
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    Here is a link to TriMet code: "CHAPTER 28 – REGULATIONS GOVERNING CONDUCT ON DISTRICT PROPERTY"

    http://www.trimet.org/pdfs/code/TriMet_Code_Chapter_28.pdf

    Reading through it, there is no specific prohibition against a particular choice of words (swearing) or panhandling. There are rules about noisy behavior and intimidating behavior, and against vocal singing or playing of musical instruments. Thus, at least according to this document, it is OK to swear, but if you do it so loudly that many people can hear it, it may be sufficiently disruptive to be prohibited (as would any loud speech, regardless of content.)

    Regarding panhandling in particular, I have been told by TriMet customer service in the past that it is legal, so long as it is not done in a noisy, disruptive, or harassing manner.

    I would propose that if one wanted to reduce panhandling within transit vehicles, rather than getting into the messy territory of content of speech, it might be more sensible to ban all cash transactions (commercial or otherwise) within transit vehicles, except for the purpose of paying fare or making change.

    Eric - if there's another part of the code that we should be looking at here, please provide a link.

    • Bob R.
  • bama_barrron (unverified)
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    personally i think eric is more mad at himself then he is of the people he is slandering. imagine having to ride public transportation with such a "i'm better then anyone else" attitude. imagine the self esteem problems he must be facing.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I'd stay away from tossing around words like 'parasites' too casually. Using those kind of words in the way Eric Parker does tends to make those that use them look worse than the people they apply it to. Maybe in fact, they are.

    What is the ideal world you are seeking Eric? Perhaps this one will never be the one for you.

    Conductor...isn't that word derived from the word 'conduct'? What better way to ensure civil conduct on max trains than to have a conductor actually on the max cars with the passengers at all hours trains trains run? Security personnel on the trains more hours of the day might be fine too if Tri-met is prepared to budget for it.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Thanks for the research, Bob. You make good points about how cursing and panhandling could be curbed. I've twice witnessed people trying to sell (obviously stolen) goods on MAX, and I'm surprised there isn't anything to prohibit that. I believe there's a more generic law against commerce on government property (without a permit), though.

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    John Bromley sez:

    Yes, you will hear the F... word too often, but it is a cultural thing and it does not affect your safety.

    John, I've been trying to convince you and my other Dem friends out here in Sandy that my own filthy mouth was just an indicator of local culture for years.

    Glad to have the "Cuss like a Welder" card directly from you on this thread.......

    I'm gonna tell my wife about your endorsement too......'cause she's always pushing for something called Cvil Discourse (whatever the heck that might be).

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    Ms. Barnes shows the usual disconnect between our elected officials and the public. At a recent open house on the proposed Milwaukie line the concern cited most from neighborhood groups and citizens was safety while on Max trains and at stations. In her post she seems to take great pains to gloss over the problem.

    ”I think I've heard "the F-word" maybe once or twice...It comes with living in a diverse community and, on balance, I much prefer that to the alternative.

    Yes, you will hear the F... word too often, but it is a cultural thing and it does not affect your safety.”

    No, but it does affect your quality of life while on Max and adds to how inviting mass transit is for the general public.

    Would you tolerate loud conversations where “nigger”, “kike”, or “faggot” are heard? Would you write that off to “diversity”?

    Calling that kind of gutter language a “cultural thing” smacks of thinly veiled racism too. Beef up security, enforce existing rules of conduct on Max and watch public support increase.

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    Buckman Resident,

    For the record, I don't gloss over concerns regarding safety. I did the "ride along" on MAX to get a better picture of things since I had not been on the MAX at night. Granted, it wasn't without some "dog and pony" aspects to it but I did learn some things and I would hope that is what you want elected officials to do.

    As for the rest of your comments...I assume those were directed at someone else because I didn't discuss "gutter language". Thanks for commenting.

  • 18yearoldwithanopinion (unverified)
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    Having used Tri-Met over the years to get to downtown and to various internships and other things, I have a few thoughts on it. I agree that too much swearing occurs and that troubles but hey I hear worse things at my high school. The main problem on Max is lack of fare checks. I always use valid fare while on Max but a good amount of people don’t. Rush hour Max is in downtown and the west-side has few problems sometimes someone too loud. I would feel safer if Tri-Met had more fare inspectors but overall I am not too scared to ride Max and honestly I could drive but I prefer Max. Most trouble makers and panhandlers don’t pay fares so if you check for fares more often then you have solved a big problem outside of fareless square. I like the idea of seeing if reducing fareless square hours work, since hey if it doesn’t work then go back to the way it used to be. In all the times I have ever rode the Max the only time I was actually scared was near Lloyd Center when Portland Police started yelling and drawing their guns at a guy next to me on the train platform, I have no idea why they busted him but I remember them pulling massive amounts of drugs out of his backpack.

  • Adrian R. (unverified)
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    Yes kids, public swearing is OK because it shows you have culture. (?!?)

    I've been riding Trimet since high school, which was a one hour trip from inner NE Portland to outer SW Portland. And it was certainly not an easy ride. I've witnessed numerous fights, drunks, people smoking on the MAX, drugs deals, drug using, excessive swearing, panhandling, etcetera and so forth.

    And it's not just the trains/buses themselves, it's the stops. Try transferring buses anywhere from SW Washington to Union Station - especially with the current messed up system. I've had to stand there waiting for the bus while some guy with his pants around his knees sits in the corner smoking up his crack pipe in broad daylight. But I guess that's his culture and I should respect it, so I apologize for being so insensitive.

  • Faolan (unverified)
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    Good God Almighty there are a bunch of whiny fucking babies around here.

    "Boo-hoo that man said the 'F-word' we should kick him off our bus/train because his language endangers me. Boo-hoo."

    The Primary concern for Milwaukie folks was safety?!?!? You've GOT to be kidding me. The MAX train is a paragon of safety and virtue compared to the NYC subway or Oakland. Just because a couple people in an entire year of transit have been attacked, one by someone that he personally knew, everyone has to freak out.

    What kind of cowards do we have living in this country?

    If someone's language bothers you ask them to tone it down. Be polite, most people will respond positively. Point out perhaps that there are children on board or something.

    If you see a drug deal going down, call the cops. All of you probably have cel-phones. Take some responsibility for your own lives you pansies.

  • ws (unverified)
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    In her Oregonian column today, the frequently over-reactive S Renee Mitchell has it partly right in terms of Tri-mets answer to addressing violence on the Max. Tri-mets suggestion that cutting back fareless square hours of operation will reduce violence and other assorted offensive behavior is just, as she says in her column, smoke and mirrors.

    Tri-met is simply reluctant to put the personnel on board the trains that's necessary to ensure a standard of conduct, let alone consistent fare payment. I don't have them at my fingertips, but I'm fairly sure people have posted statistics before establishing that additional fares gained through elimination of fareless square will not provide sufficient funds to pay for needed fare inspectors or security required to establish a higher standard of conduct on train and bus.

    Tri-met saying that fareless square enables criminally activity overlooks a simple opportunity for crime deterrence. If max or buses do represent to criminals, an opportunity for criminal opportunity, then it's only logical for cops to be on max and the buses prepared to catch them. When criminally inclined people come to realize mass transit is a trap waiting to snare them, rather than an opportunity for crime, they'll stop using it. Simply posting a sign saying 'you can't get on here for free between 7pm and 7am' isn't going to change anything.

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    Posted by: Eric Parker | Dec 12, 2007 9:29:26 AM Also - The 'F' word is not a civilized thing to do at any time or place.

    The fuck it is.

    Are you getting the vapors yet?

    Your fucked up assertion also begs the question, are you saying our troops are not civilized?

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    Posted by: Eric Parker | Dec 12, 2007 9:29:26 AM Also - The 'F' word is not a civilized thing to do at any time or place.

    The fuck it is.

    Are you getting the vapors yet?

    Your fucked up assertion also begs the question, are you saying our troops are not civilized?

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    Typepad gave me an error message and when I clicked back, it seems to have double posted. Mea culpa for the double posting.

  • zilfondel (unverified)
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    haha!

    Grow some balls, people. I can smell the fear from the way some of these comments are written.

    Portland isn't a big, bad place. Its your fear and naivete of how to deal with people that is. So-called troublemakers don't want to be confronted and called on their behavior, while the average person just wants to sit in a nice little fantasy world and be pampered like when they sit in on their couch watching 'Reality TV.'

    I agree with Faolan.

    As for myself, I have been riding the bus, max, streetcar, and walking the streets of downtown, NE and SE all hours of the night, all days of the year. I hold my head high and honestly, I've never had a problem. I'm not some big, tough guy, but it is just common sense to show yourself as being assertive if you are in a place that makes you uncomfortable.

    "Trouble makers" can read your body language like the front page headlines on a newspaper, and always target the weak - read any travel guide; it's always one of the main tips they identify as improving your safety.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Well sure, all you people that aren't tough guys but hold your head up high and never have a problem on mass transit...that's fine. Glad you haven't been threatened, intimidated or offended. Just remember that even as Eric Parker and others sound like prissy wusses, some of their argument for a greater standard of civility on mass transit is reasonable.

    Many different types of people are obliged to rely on mass transit to get around. Many of them that are small in build, old, or disabled or otherwise vulnerable, and may not be able to repel intimidating behavior or presence on mass transit through simple assumption of a non-threatened demeanor. There's no reason they should have to. Nobody should have to put up with any kind of uncivil behavior on mass transit. Nobody. Well, maybe in the form of a demonstration, but... .

    There's nothing wrong with occasional use of the word "fuck", but used gratuitously in a public setting, or for the purpose of intimidation is simply wrong. That, I gather from what Parker and others have been saying, has been happening on mass transit, and it shouldn't be. Much of our society hangs together only because most of us that make it up understand that there are certain things we say and do in private that out of consideration for others, we do not say and do in public.

    People that refuse to understand and uphold this basic principle should be consistently removed from mass transit.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    This is silly. How much tax money should we throw away trying to enforce some mythical right to not hear words that make some people uncomfortable? And, even if we put a cop on every bus and train, I'm convinced the whiners on this thread would find something new to complain about.

    Clearly, being out in public is not for everyone. The truth is, other people can be annoying. If you can't handle people not behaving the way you think they should, then stay home. A decency patrol is not the answer. It sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit.

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    There's nothing wrong with occasional use of the word "fuck", but used gratuitously in a public setting, or for the purpose of intimidation is simply wrong. That, I gather from what Parker and others have been saying, has been happening on mass transit, and it shouldn't be.

    I've heard the work "fuck" on the bus several gazillion times, none of them "for the purpose of intimidation". Pretty much all of them would probably be considered gratuitous by most of the posters here, the definition of "gratuitous" being "not the way I would use it".

    It's pretty hilarious listening to so many people put their two cents' worth in who never ride transit and also apparently never venture near the parts of town containing, for one example, large groups of black teenagers.

    Would you tolerate loud conversations where “nigger”, “kike”, or “faggot” are heard? Would you write that off to “diversity”?

    In most of those loud conversations on the bus where every third word is "fuck", half the rest of the words are "nigger". Do I tolerate that? Yes. I don't make a habit of correcting the language of strangers, that's both impolite and ineffective. Were those words being used for intimidation, that would be different, but the actual situation is that it's just kids talking to one another the way they talk. Most of them, like most kids in general, are perfectly good people.

    I don't just hear that language on the bus. I hear it outside the library, as I work in my community garden plot, etc.

    I always support bus drivers who choose to ask kids to stop talking like that on the bus because I do think that we as a society are doing those kids a disservice when we don't at least remind them periodically that what is perfectly normal to them is not acceptable to a lot of other people. I am, however, realistic about the chances that bus drivers, fare inspectors or other riders are going to fundamentally change how people talk. It's rather a larger issue than that.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    If your biggest complaint about TriMet is that you hear language you find offensive, then a) you don't really have a problem and b) you might be the type of person better off taking a cab or walking (although the last cab I took had a driver who greeted me with "how the fuck are ya today" so maybe you should just walk. Yes, there are problems on TriMet---by problems, I mean people being physically harassed and hurt, occasionally shot or stabbed. We need more security on Tri-Met in general and MAX in particular. I've lived here for 17 years, 11 of which I owned no car and used Tri-Met exclusively to get around. When I first moved here I rode every single bus line from beginning to end (its a great way to get to know a city). In all those years, I've been shoved against a MAX wall once (I called 911 on my cell and cops were waiting at the next stop)and I've had multiple panhandlers ask me for money--only one was aggressive/rude. TriMet serves the public---all of the public. Which means you will from time to time get people breaking the law, breaking the rules, being rude, and generally being assholes. You will also notice, if you're paying attention, that the majority of riders are polite, fare-paying citizens just like (I hope) you and they just want to use the system to get from point A to point B. So ride the rails and buses, look out for your fellow citizens, and keep telling TriMet what you want changed. Sooner or later, they have to bow to the pressure.

  • Lenny Anderson (unverified)
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    Note that Interstate MAX has not come up in the recent "Crime scare." Most of its stations are part of busy crossroads where cars, bikes, peds and transit riders are coming and going at all hours. Station design is key. Also, crime follows demographics...N/NE Portland is seeing less, Rockwood/Gresham is seeing more. Most riders of the Milwaukie line will be residents from down that way. Are they behaving these days? Every cop will tell you that the best crime prevention measure is citizens' eyes on the street. Same with MAX.

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    This whole thread is a laugh riot.

    The buses I ride in SE & from there downtown sometimes have someone using swearwords on board; nearly always it is white high school kids. Probably varies with part of the city, but I challenge the assumption that the "culture" in question here is anything but youth culture. Once in a long while it is older guys who appear drunk or on their way there. Again almost always white. The drivers generally are able to keep a lid on things.

    In my adolescence and again when I lived there for a couple of years in the 1990s I used to ride all over metro Boston on the T subway system. I loved it & would be happy if light rail came to SE -- right now the MAX isn't relevant to where I live or go for the most part.

    As I recall the T had faretakers in each car (the front one drove I think) with a set-up much like that on Portland buses. They also had a system where you paid more when you got on inbound after a certain distance out but only the fare to get into the station in the city (where the lines were generally underground or elevated in a few places & access was fairly easy to restrict). The advantages to a system where you pay to get into the station are that it doesn't restrict train boarding to the front door, and it imposes a cost making it less attractive to just hang out in the station. Musical buskers were permitted (some good, some not), but I think panhandling wasn't inside the turnstiles.

    If the Max gets more fully developed so that you can go more places on it, I think it will be used more.

    Eric Parker, you evidently know very little about homelessness & who and how people end up that way, which is quite complicated and not subject to any simple generalization. Your fantasy world pretty clearly is hermetically sealed, though.

    I've also seen a bus system where regular lines like we have with large buses were supplemented by smaller buses that ran circular routes frequently between those lines which seemed to reduce some of the waiting & also introduce flexibility in gettting places.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Laugh on. Laughing is healthy.

    For ms. Doretta: Gratuitous: "Unnecessary and unwarranted". wordweb

    "Fuck", and other profane words are part of the language, part of the culture. Such words, used with some reserve, and some regard for the setting in which they're used, can be constructive and important for emphasis in discussing some subjects. Limited use of such words are usually tolerable to others nearby.

    The point at which they are perceived as being used to excess is subjective, but I'd wager to say most people aren't interested in hearing every other word out of their fellow passengers mouths on mass transit be a swear word. If its kids that are going on and on with ghetto-hip-hop rap or whatever, then fine, they get some slack, but someone needs to be reminding them that's not o.k. for certain situations.

  • Adrian R (unverified)
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    Personally I don't understand the point of swearing all the time. If you use up all your curse words for trivial things like the Blazers' latest loss or running out of soy milk for your latte, what are you going to say to express the gravity of really serious situations?

  • James X. (unverified)
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    <h2>I'm very sorry I didn't check back on this thread to set straight all the defenders of public "fuck"ing on the bus. Of course I still ride the bus and MAX despite rude people, but I also think the rude people should shut the fuck up and HAVE RESPECT FOR OTHER RIDERS. That's what it's about. Not fear of the F word, but RESPECT FOR A PUBLIC PLACE AND THE PEOPLE WHO USE IT. When a mom brings her kid on the bus and is assaulted by a barrage of cursing by other passengers, that's one less decent TriMet rider in the future. It's survival of the least worthy -- only the people who make it a pain in the ass to ride are left.</h2>

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