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TriMet to me: you cannot get there from here

(Mikel Kelly is a humor columnist and editor at the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood. His office is on Lake Road in Milwaukie, nine miles and more than two hours from his Portland home.)

Like a lot of my pointy-headed liberal friends who talk glowingly about mass transit but never seem to get out of their gas-sucking cars, I talk a good game, but my actions are something else again.

For the last couple of weeks, The Other Person Who Lives At Our House and I have been sharing one car, and she's been taking the bus to her job in Northwest Portland, in the shadow of Good Samaritan Hospital. Last week, she asked if she could have the car on Friday, her day off.

I agreed, then asked if she might want to drop me off at work.

Not really, she said, adding that I ought to just take the bus, like she's been doing every other day of the week.

I'm not sure how that would work, I mumbled, staring down at my shoes. I do that for sympathy, but it never works.

Just go to the TriMet trip planner site online, insisted TOPWLAOH, and they'll show you how to get where you want to go.

Now, bear in mind that my house - near Mountain Park in Southwest Portland - is a measly 9 miles from the newspaper office, in Milwaukie. It takes 18 minutes to drive it on a good day. On other days, it's more like 20.

OK, I thought, my inner first-grader only given away by my giant protruding lower lip. I'll show you. I'll do it.

So I went to the TriMet Web site (trimet.org) and typed in my home address, then my work address.

The computer blinked off into outer space, or wherever it goes when it's trying to find something really ridiculous to show you. Then - boing! - it was back.

It gave me two options.

Option 1 ('Your best bet,' according to the computer) told me to catch bus No. 43, ride downtown, catch No. 19 and ride it to the Gateway Transit Center, catch No. 70 and ride it to the Milwaukie Transit Center, then take No. 29 to the office.

Total riding time, according to the Web site, is '142 minutes (including 14 minutes walking and 52 minutes waiting).'

This all took a while to translate in my tiny, pea-sized brain. My four-bus commute, under my 'best bet,' would take two hours and 22 minutes. Assuming it would take a similar amount of time to get home again, I reasoned I would spend just under five hours of my day going to and from work.

Option 2, as outlined by the TriMet trip planner, wasn't quite as good. It also involved catching four buses (different ones, of course), but the total travel time was 156 minutes (including 19 minutes walking and 72 minutes waiting).

So that penciled out at 5.2 hours total commute time.

When I factor in a lunch hour (I have never in my 60 years and three months of life missed a meal, as you could tell by looking at me) and an occasional break to socialize with my co-workers, I figure I would only have two or three hours to get everything done that I have to do in a day's time before heading back to the bus stop.

The irony here, I thought, is that TOPWLAOH also has a commute of about 9 miles, but hers involves just two buses and the much more pleasant options of 68 or 72 minutes of walking, waiting and riding buses.

A really 'helpful' fellow editor put my own TriMet scenario in perspective for me: 'You could probably walk here faster than riding the bus,' he said with a big grin.

A cold shiver shot down my spine because I knew good and well that The Other Person Who Lives At Our House would almost certainly think that was a good idea.

She could visualize it as well as me - a short trot down Taylors Ferry Road past the mausoleum to the Sellwood Bridge, through Milwaukie and out to the Pamplin Media Empire World Headquarters Building on Lake Road.

A very good idea, indeed.

So I've chosen not to tell her about it.

Instead, I bummed a ride with two very nice women at work (Louise and Mary), who go right past my neighborhood anyway. The wait is minimal, and they don't charge that much.