For TriMet aficionados such as myself, and likely many of you, these are interesting times. There’s a massive budget shortfall in the wind, and if you’re paying attention, you’re hearing all kinds of things – lines being cut, transfers done away with, charging for baggage (I made that up… I think) and any number of other insults to our status as commuters.
One of the things that keeps catching my eye is the talk about there being a distinction between “choice” riders, and their bedraggled, Tiny-Tim-cap-wearing, tin-cup holding brethren, the “transit dependent” rider.
As the most excellent Portland Afoot points out , these terms are not favored by many, for a number of reasons. After all, diving riders into binary camps may work for researchers slaving over hot ANOVAS, people who don’t want to add variables and screw up their level of significance (I mean, hey, who does?), but where do you find the line? Am I a choice rider because I could drive a car instead? And, I’m pretty transit dependent when I’m standing at the bus stop in Hillsboro, waiting for the 57. I guess I’m choosing not to walk, or hitchhike. Then again, those transit dependent folks are making choices, too. And, while I like to think of myself as “choice,” I think that’s MY decision, not TriMet’s.
Clearly, what we need is a larger list of rider types. As always, I’m here to help. Let’s split that pie up a little bit more, just to help our buddies at TriMet.
Choice Rider – This one demands redefinition. I think a Choice Rider should be one who wears clothes that haven’t been in their closet for more than a year, and who would have driven except their Mercedes is in the shop to get pinstriped.
Choice-Regretting Rider – There’s one on every bus. This rider may have initially chosen to ride transit, but has had a change of heart mid-stream. This usually occurs somewhere alongside a cold, wet, busy street, with Transit Tracker refusing to give information about when the next bus is due.
Pro-Choice Rider – This is the rider who, in the middle of a long haul sitting next to someone who refuses to bathe, wishes that the parents of their seatmate would have exercised their right to contraception or reproductive choice.
Dependent Personality Rider – Featured in the DSM-IV as a “Cluster C” personality disorder, this rider is unable to make their own choices, and they’re completely lost without some guidance. They’ll get on the bus, and announce their stop to no one in particular. Everyone on the bus remains tense until this rider gets off at their stop, usually after repeating “is this the one?” about thirty times. These riders need long-term therapy and a riding buddy.
Transit-Sort-Of-Dependent-But-Kind-Of-Choice Rider – That’s me! We have one car in a family of seven, so I take the bus and the train. If TriMet ceased to exist (fortunately not one of the options in the budget debate, SO FAR), I might have the resources to figure something else out. This coming Monday morning, I’m Transit Dependent. Maybe after that I could come up with a way not to be. I think a lot of commuters fall into this category, but it needs a better name.
Screwed Rider – Soon to be legion, after their favorite bus routes suffer a death from a thousand cuts. After a while, losing weekend service and cutting the route in half just kills your enthusiasm. At this time there are more Choice Riders than Transit Dependent. Choice cuts both ways, and there are a lot of folks who could be about to turn into Choice Non-Riders. I hope that doesn’t happen.
There’s plenty more that could be said about the whole Choice vs. Dependent, Bus vs. MAX questions as priorities get shuffled and things start going away. It would be nice if all riders realized that they’re the ones, along with the operators and other line employees, who suffer when the red pencils come out. Maybe we could band together and lose all the labels.