Tana Barnett travels all over the region for school, work and volunteer activities. Barnett is a student at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, works at Burgerville in Northeast Portland, and sits on the Multnomah Youth Commission, which meets in downtown Portland. We talked to Barnett about their experience with transportation as a college student. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Metro: How do you move around the region?
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Tana Barnett: I spend most of my time commuting on the bus. I tend to skate in between stops, like if there's a long wait for my transfer, I'll skate three or four stops ahead of it. I spend some time on the MAX, not as much, because it's not as accessible from my house as most of the bus lines are. Most people would walk between bus stops, but I'm very impatient, so I like to skate. I used to walk everywhere that I went and it would take me a long time to get anywhere. Skateboarding ended up cutting all of my travel times pretty much in half, which was hugely helpful in getting me to school on time. I used to be late a lot.
Metro: What's working well?
"Public transportation and my skateboard work well together because it gives me the flexibility and independence that I need. I don't have to rely on anybody else to give me rides."
Barnett: Public transportation and my skateboard work well together because it gives me the flexibility and independence that I need. I don't have to rely on anybody else to give me rides. I've really enjoyed taking transit because it takes longer than driving places. So it gives me an opportunity to get things done that I wouldn't get done otherwise.
Another reason that transit can be more helpful than driving is because the Multnomah Youth Commission provides me with a monthly bus pass. I don't have to worry about paying to take the bus. For a short time, my boyfriend and I did have a car, but between having things stolen out of it and having to pay for gas, it was not sustainable in terms of money. We both work in fast food and neither of us makes enough to pay for a full tank of gas every week.
Metro: What’s not working well?
Barnett: I frequently have to deal with the rain, which is not good for my skateboard's bearings. It slowly like degrades them and makes it so that it doesn't move as fast anymore. It can be really difficult to skateboard along some of the streets that have more potholes or where the sidewalks are uneven.
"My ideal transportation experience would be one where I didn't necessarily have to transfer from route to route so often, because that's where I tend to miss more buses and have to wait for longer periods of time."
I pretty frequently have trouble with timing the bus. So the bus will get there and I'll be across the street, watching it drive away. My ideal transportation experience would be one where I didn't necessarily have to transfer from route to route so often, because that's where I tend to miss more buses and have to wait for longer periods of time.
Metro: What would need to happen to transfer less?
Barnett: I guess it would be helpful if I lived closer to more bus lines, because currently I only have access to two east-west lines; there are no north-south lines for quite a while. Portland has become a lot more expensive since my mom bought the house where we live in the Centennial neighborhood. Renting would not be feasible for my boyfriend and me, living off minimum wage. But there's no place where I could live that would be in the middle of everything. I go to school at Mount Hood on the Gresham campus. It's often the opposite side of town from things that I do for work and for the Multnomah Youth Commission.
Metro: You mentioned Portland is becoming expensive. What concerns do you have about our transportation system?
Barnett: I've seen a definite shift in the amount of folks that take transit. I see the eastbound lines – whether it be on the MAX or the Powell bus or the Division bus – have been filling up a lot more. Sometimes they get full to the point where it feels like you're packed in like a can of sardines, and like there's no way that this could even be safe. If there was some sort of accident, you would have to trample other people to get out. So I think about that a lot.
Metro: How have your transportation needs evolved over time?
Barnett: When I was younger, I used to be able to rely on my mom to drive me to places. We lived in Happy Valley, where there is limited access to transit. After we moved into the Centennial neighborhood, I became more reliant on walking everywhere. After I joined the Multnomah Youth Commission, I became significantly more independent because I had more things that I had to do. I had meetings downtown every single week at Portland City Hall, which is like the other end of the world from my house, and there was no way that my parents could help me get there. So I became very reliant on TriMet at that point.
Metro: What should decision-makers know about you and people like you?
Barnett: In the off chance that people who skateboard onto TriMet evade fare, it is not because they want to evade fare. It's out of necessity most times. The current system of dealing with those fare evasion tickets is not equitable for folks living on my side of town either. Commuting on TriMet all the way downtown to go to court, when they already couldn't afford to buy one bus ticket is not a model that makes any sense.
Metro: What’s your vision for the future of transportation?
"I hope that in the future we will see more north-south bus lines implemented in East Portland, because that is very much something we are in need of out there, especially going towards Gresham."
Barnett: I hope that in the future we will see more north-south bus lines implemented in East Portland, because that is very much something we are in need of out there, especially going towards Gresham.
There's currently a program that provides free bus passes to students that go to Portland Public Schools. My wish would be to see that expanded to other schools within the metro area because, well, for one thing, it's not equitable to provide them to one district out of an entire area full of high school students.
(Editor’s note: OPAL succeeded in acquiring bus passes for students in other city of Portland school districts. Read more here).