Trains were all the rage last week, and I’m beginning to think that good comments travel in packs. Readers’ response to Taylor Griggs’s article, City will seek federal grant to study southeast train crossing delays, was strikingly knowledgeable. Portland is lucky to have such well-informed residents.
Out of the crowd, Ruth’s comment stood out because it was a strong and simple tale of the disruption the trains cause her—from someone who has spent hours waiting for trains to pass. The comment’s power comes from the contrast between her calm description of the problem and how maddening it must be to experience it.
What’s the lesson? Writing is not about merely expressing your emotion, it’s about leading your reader to feel it.
Here’s what Ruth wrote:
I’ve e-mailed TriMet twice on this very topic. Both times before plans were finalized. I cross these tracks (pedestrian) twice a day, every day I work. I call if the train is not moving. My phone shows I call between two and eight times a month. This on a four day work week basis, so eight crossings a week usually.
My record wait (after MAX went in & before the return of a pedestrian overpass) was one hour and 50 minutes. And traffic was already stopped & backed up in front of my workplace more than three blocks north of the crossing when I left work.
It is not so much the trains moving through that are a problem, though UP has pretty much doubled the length of the longest making even a moving train a non-trivial wait. It is the ones that park on the tracks. UP is using SE Portland and likely NE, NW, N PDX (and probably Milwaukie) as an extension of Brooklyn Yard.
UP logistics appears congenitally unable to manage trains in Brooklyn Yard without disrupting neighborhoods and transit throughout the Metro area. Perhaps it is time for UP to dismantle Brooklyn (better: turn it over to the Rail Historical Society) and move switching out somewhere into empty countryside. There, they can park the trains for extended periods without blocking multiple crossings & polluting multiple neighborhoods.
Lisa Caballero has lived in SW Portland for 20 years. She is on the Transportation Committee of her neighborhood association, the Southwest Hills Residential League (SWHRL) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.