Adam Merecias is no stranger to public transit systems. In Oaxaca, Mexico, where he was born, he’d take buses everywhere. As a college student at Portland State University, Merecias relied on the bus and MAX to get to school and his job in Tigard from his apartment in Beaverton.
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But driving plays a bigger role in his life these days. His transportation needs have evolved ever since he moved to Cornelius and started a family, and thanks to a job that takes him all over greater Portland.
We sat down to talk with him about his experience with transportation as a working professional. Our interview, condensed and edited for clarity, is below.
Metro: Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Adam Merecias: I work as a community health worker for a nonprofit called Familias en Acción. My work is with Latinos who have a chronic condition, or who have been newly diagnosed with cancer. I work in three counties: Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington. But I have worked with a number of Latino patients throughout the state.
Metro: How do you move around the region?
I drive a lot. I have to drive because of my work. Sometimes on Wednesdays, which are the days I spend in my office, I take public transit. On other days, you'll see me driving around, visiting families in their homes. The other part [of why I drive so much] is because of my daughter. I have to get home sometimes as fast as I can just to spend time with her, just to make sure that we have that quality time as a family. Sometimes I have to pick her up from daycare when my wife is not able to, which is not very common, but sometimes I have to do it.
Metro: Have you always driven a lot?
Merecias: No, I guess this is fairly new. In the past, I worked primarily in an office. And I didn't have to rely on my car as much. I would take the bus or the MAX to get there. But then again, I used to live in Beaverton, near the MAX transit center out at 185th, which is three or four blocks from my old apartment building. So, for that specific job, it would be really easy for me just to take the MAX to downtown and get to my job. Now it's not the case since I moved out here in Cornelius. And my work changed. I have to be out in the community visiting families.
Metro: What’s working well about driving?
"Driving is a lot quicker. If I would take the MAX or the bus, it would take a lot longer."
Merecias: Driving is a lot quicker. If I would take the MAX or the bus, it would take a lot longer. The other part that I like about driving is that I get to see a lot of places I would not normally go to. I'm getting familiar with the many other communities in Portland that I hadn’t visited.
Metro: What's not working well about driving?
Merecias: Out here in my city there are only two ways that I could get to Highway 26. So if one is closed, I just have to rely on the other one and hope that there's no construction going on. Otherwise, I might be waiting there for quite a while. Sometimes there are places where the roads might not be as great as you would like them to be. I know that we had the snow recently, so that made driving very difficult in some areas because there were a lot of potholes. And besides that, I think traffic in general [is a problem], depending on the area. My commute can be anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half.
Metro: What would it take for you to drive less?
Merecias: I guess what it would take for me to drive less would be to have the MAX come out here to this area. I would probably use it to get around with my family on the weekends and for work as well. I’d take it on the days I don’t travel [all over the region], on the days I spend in my office. So that would save me some time as well.
Metro: When you think about your transportation needs and the transportation needs of people like you, what do you envision for the future of Oregon's transportation system?
Merecias: I guess what I would like to see is getting the buses out to the areas where it's not happening at the moment. It's great that the MAX is now going all the way to Clackamas. In the past, I didn't see that. So that's another plus that I've seen. But there are some little towns out here that don't have the bus that gets there. Gaston is one of those places.
We have so many social services areas out here and low-income families sometimes have to struggle to get places, if they can find a ride or not.