Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Like Night and Day

TriMet's wonderful! TriMet's awful! Which is correct?

Look at comments on TriMet's Facebook posts. Search for #trimet on Twitter and read the tweets that come up. Ask your friends about what they think about TriMet. It is clear that the public approval of TriMet is waning. People are getting more and more frustrated by the unreliability, the crowded trains and buses, and the other undesirable aspects that we all know so well.

But, you also see a lot of people writing about how wonderful TriMet is. These positive comments usually follow TriMet's Facebook posts and are intermixed with other people's complaints and Erik Halstead's extreme calls for radical change (which are warranted but unrealistic; but that's worthy of its own post.)

But the question remains: why the severe discrepancy in these opinions? Which is correct?

Well, both. You see, it totally depends upon the lense you are viewing it through.

We bloggers incessantly inundate you with all the things that go wrong with TriMet. I think we do this for two reasons: (1) it's fun to nitpick and get attention for it, and (2) it's true! We know this because we are experts in the field of TriMet, and it doesn't take much digging to find the dirt we uncover. Many casual riders who couldn't tell you the difference between the three definitions of 'block' are completely oblivious to the issues that go on, and are perfectly content to stay that way until their 1400-series bus breaks down going down I-5 on a 95-degree day. Then, they may get a taste of this reality.

If we know it's this bad, why are there so many people who think TriMet is the best? Either they are such optimists that they would still be smiling if an opossum pooped on their foot, or there is something else at play here. Look closely at the comments. What's the common pattern? They are comparative. Almost all of the comments are worded something like, "TriMet is SOO much better than Dallas" or Phoenix or Washington DC, or wherever. Although they don't see the problems that we who have been around Portland for awhile see, they do see all the good things that we do have, and are thankful for it.

TriMet has its problems, that is for sure. But sometimes it's easy to forget how good we have it compared to other cities. That's why I'm fighting for it, because I don't want the good in it to die at the hands of someone who doesn't have the best interests of the agency at heart. But it can be better. And I hope the trend turns in that direction soon.

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