TriMet, city of Gresham surprise retiring city planner with 'world record title for ridership'

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Gresham city planner Jonathan Harker, right, talks after receiving an 'Officially Amazing' certificate for being the TriMet distance world record holder from TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, left. The surprise ceremony took place at the City Hall MAX stop on Wednesday morning.

Cheers erupted at Gresham City Hall Station Wednesday as city staff and TriMet honored a VIP rider who’s taken 12,700 MAX trips.

“This is the time of year we give thanks,” said Neil McFarlane, TriMet general manager. “At TriMet, we have over 300,000 riders a day and a lot of customers we want to thank. particular customer has broken all records we could find.”

Jonathan Harker earned the accolades of “longest-tenured” MAX rider for commuting daily the past 26 years via MAX.

“Jonathan is a man of integrity and principle,” said City Manager Erik Kvarsten. “He is a man who walks the walk and in this case, rides the ride.”

A retiring Gresham city planner, Harker began taking the MAX in May 1987, seven months after starting his job with the city and eight months after the first MAX line opened between Portland and Gresham.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Jonathan Harker was recognized by TriMet for being the longest commuter in TriMet history.

“When I first started, I would be the only person on the train when I got to Gresham,” Harker said. “If you wanted to stop past 122nd, you pulled a cord. One time I pulled it and they kept going.”

Harker has traveled 10 miles each way between the Hollywood/Northeast 42nd Avenue Transit Center and Gresham City Hall station. That amounts to about 36 minutes each way — or 7,620 hours — and more than five times around the earth at the equator on MAX.

Had Harker driven to work, TriMet estimates he would have amassed 161,000 miles on his car. By using MAX instead of driving alone, he reduced his carbon footprint by 75 percent each trip. During his commute life, this savings would total over 120 tons of carbon dioxide emissions not released.

“Over these years, you’ve gotten email done, books read, made some interesting friends and become a great part of the community,” McFarlane said of Harker’s ridership.

TriMet officials presented Harker with an “officially amazing” certificate and TriMet baseball cap.

After 27 years with the city of Gresham, Harker is retiring this week. He said he plans to be involved in the community, delving into concerns he has about climate changes and food equity, but at his own pace.

“Part of what I’m going to do is what planners do — plan for my next 20 years,” Harker said with a laugh.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Gresham city employees take part in a TriMet surprise celebration on Wednesday morning for Jonathan Harker, left foreground. Harker was recognized by TriMet for being the longest commuter in TriMet history.

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