Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Going intermodal

There’s a practice bus rack at PSU and it helped calm my bus/bike fears.
(Photos: Becky Jo)

About 20 years ago I worked for Greenbrier, the corporate headquarters for Gunderson Rail and Marine on NW Front Ave here in Portland. I learned about — and loved — the concept of intermodal transportation. A steel box container can go from ocean barge to rail to truck, creating the most efficient mode of global transportation. Instead of specialized modes, intermodal always seemed more efficient to me.

So it just made sense that eventually I’d get to the point of traveling with my bike on public transit, thus making myself intermodal.

The thing is, I’ve been comfortable with MAX light rail since I was a teenager when the line was installed all the way to Gresham. I spent 10 years of my school-age life out in Boring, so bike and transit culture wasn’t really something I was raised with, but that’s another conversation. Until this year, the times I rode a city bus could have been counted on one hand. Now that I’m taking this life-crash-course on biking and transit, it has taken me awhile to get up the nerve to combine the two.

The other day I needed to get to Portland State. I started with the MAX as I was more comfortable with that. That was uneventful. If you know of anything I need to be aware of on this part of the human-intermodal venture, please let me know. Like, what times should I avoid for certain? Granted I can easily ride downtown, but this was a test trip for longer ventures.


Bike on MAX, nbd.

Got to PSU, had lunch with the college kid, and headed out to find the TriMet bike rack practice spot. I realize it’s not rocket science, but when observing people load their bike on the bus, I hadn’t witnessed anyone do it with fenders on and I didn’t want to muck up my wheels, so wanted to check first both for my own security and to share with any other new cyclists/intermodal humans here on BikePortland. I went all around the block trying to find it, and couldn’t see it anywhere. I didn’t see any signage pointing to it and for whatever reason did not assume it would be inside the PSU Transportation Information Center, which is exactly where it is! I popped into the PSU Bike Hub to get help finding it and they were super cool about me being completely clueless.

So, get this. As I was futzing around with the bike rack, Clint, the PSU Transportation Options Manager, actually came in and asked how I was doing. How cool is that? We had a great conversation. Did you know that PSU students get free BikeTown membership? I had no idea. PSU also has 150 “Vike Bikes” for only $15 a month, all inclusive. We’ll get more into bike and college culture another time, but I thought all of that was really cool.


What about less able-bodied folks? Do you find that transit intermodal options have too many barriers for use?

The bus-bike rack test went great, and I caught the bus back home without incident. So, now that I’ve conquered my intermodal transit fear for Portland, I have a couple questions.

Do you regularly use human-intermodal transportation options? What is your mileage-threshold for adding transit into your biking commute? And the one that is really got me curious: Have you gone on the C-Tran to Vancouver? Is there anything I should be aware of hitting up the ‘Couv?

And, the big question that even Clint at PSU didn’t have an answer for: What about less able-bodied folks? I had no problem getting my bike perpendicular on the MAX or up on the rack of the bus, but I’m physically capable and my bike is very lightweight. Do you find that transit intermodal options have too many barriers for use?

There’s a new sewing co-op in Vancouver with (sing it with me) industrial machines! I must go, and I can report back. You’ve got to mend your bike gear somewhere, and I can do some tricky stuff with a domestic machine, but sometimes only an industrial will do. As always, thank you!

— Becky Jo, on Twitter at @BeckyJoPDX
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