If you want to retire somewhere in the United States where it doesn't get too hot or too cold, then you move to the Pacific Northwest, said Duane Damiano. He moved to Oregon about 10 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland, and he loves it here. The region's transit system is another winning quality. Damiano settled in Washington County, near the Sunset Transit Center. We sat down to talk to him about his experience using transit around the greater Portland area. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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Metro: How do you spend your days now that you’re retired?
Duane Damiano: I volunteer a couple of days a week regularly. On Mondays, I'm at OMSI, where I work in exhibit repairs. On Thursdays, I volunteer at Washington County at Disabled, Aging and Veteran Services. For both of those assignments, I use the MAX to get to and from there.
Metro: Is transit the only way you move around the region?
"I try to use public transit whenever I can. Now there are some cases where driving just makes more sense."
Damiano: I try to use public transit whenever I can. Now there are some cases where driving just makes more sense. I have a sailboat on the Multnomah Channel. It is possible to take the bus downtown and the number 16 bus, which goes to Sauvie Island. I’ve done that a few times, but it takes a long time. When I'm going to the marina, I'm carrying things related to the boat, and it's just not practical to do it on the bus. But I do take the MAX and the bus whenever I can.
Metro: What's working well about using transit?
Damiano: The transit station is exactly one mile from where I live, which means, on a nice day when I don't have to carry very much, it's not a problem walking. For neither of my volunteer jobs do I have to be there at a specific time. So if the bus or the train is a little early or late, or if I miss one and have to take the next one, it's not a big deal.
One thing that I think they're doing pretty well is the ticketing. Several years ago they introduced buying and using tickets off your smart phone, which has worked well for me. They have a new ticketing system they're introducing this year. I’m interested to see how that's going to work. That might be even better than the smartphone thing. Other than that, I'm pretty satisfied. I think they're doing a good job.
Metro: What could improve about transit?
"Parking is a huge problem at the transit station. If it's a weekday, and you don't get there before about 7:30 in the morning, there's no parking left."
Damiano: Parking is a huge problem at the transit station. If it's a weekday, and you don't get there before about 7:30 in the morning, there's no parking left. That's probably the biggest problem in using the transit center.
Fortunately, there is a bus that runs close to my house that takes me to the transit center. It runs only during commuting hours, but that’s fine for my volunteer jobs down at OMSI and in Washington County. The public transportation system in Portland is very good. Better than in most cities. I used to live in Baltimore and I can use public transportation much more often here than I could back in Baltimore.
Metro: How do you anticipate your transportation needs changing in the future?
Damiano: (chuckles) I suppose my needs could change in the future. Maybe I'll get ill and need a wheelchair, or something like that. But at least in the next five years or so, I'm hoping they won't change too much. I'm looking forward to the age of driverless cars. Sometimes I think about moving to some other place, like maybe near the water, near Astoria or up on Puget Sound or some place like that. But I have to say I would miss the transportation that we have here because I'm not gonna get that there.
Metro: What do you envision for the future of Oregon’s transportation system as a whole?
"As people get older, they will need to rely on public transportation more. There will come a day, I'm sure, when I won't be able to drive anymore."
Damiano: I'm not a transportation planner. I think that the people who are, are doing a good job. One can always say that, “Well, if I had more frequent service in my neighborhood that would be more convenient.” But I understand that economics is part of that, and they can't just give maximum satisfaction to every individual no matter where they live. I think it's the responsibility of each of us to choose a place to live. I get that housing is expensive around here, as in many other places. Of course, the less expensive apartments are probably not going to be the ones that are right on the MAX line. I'm very aware of the problems that older people and even not so older people have with income not necessarily matching their needs.
Metro: You mentioned parking is difficult at transit stations. How could that be improved?
Damiano: I think that it would be a good idea for the TriMet people to look around where their transit centers and stops are, and see if there are perhaps shopping centers or churches or schools or something like that, that might have parking lots that they could somehow arrange to be used for transit center parking.
Metro: What should decision-makers know about you and people like you?
Damiano: I'm 70 years old now. I think as people get older, they will need to rely on public transportation more. There will come a day, I'm sure, when I won't be able to drive anymore. I'll need public transportation, of course, more then. Think about what can be done to make public transit easier for older people – not that I think it's difficult now.