Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Taking a trip, not taking a trip

Bend, Busses and Bureaucracy

Bend, Oregon, is a lovely place: the Cascades are on the west, craggy dormant volcanos; to the east is high desert country: volcanic, too, sagebrush and juniper—go a ways east of town and there are antelope and wild horses. The Deschutes River divides the two ecological zones. In the summer time, the river is filled with kayakers (in its rougher spots) and rafters (in the slumbering water through town). It's beautiful here.

But we wanted a trip. We took the Alaska State Ferries up the Inside Passage and back down, stopping and looking at the little towns along the way.

Most all of those towns, even historic Skagway (year around population between 800 and 900 people), have bus service. Northwest Washington, the southern terminous of the ferry has bus services all over the place, even into communities of less than a thousand people. One could take public transportation from Bellingham to Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia...not around here, though.

Bend, population 65,000+, doesn't have fixed route busses. We have something called Dial-A-Ride, where you call a minimum of a day in advance, to have a bus come to where you live and take you to where you want to go. It's very popular—so popular that even 48 hours isn't enough time to arrange a ride, in many cases. Sometimes you just can't get a ride.

A taxi ride across town pretty well shreds a $20 bill.

Bend is the largest city in Oregon without a fixed-route bus. The federal and state government have been hammering on the city for years about its lack of busses. Today, with even the Prez telling us to consider conserving petroleum (while he was blowing a cool $100K in fuel flying back and forth to Texas for photo-ops), Bend's lack of a bus line is shameful.

There are lots and lots of wealthy people in Bend: trophy houses, trophy cars, trophy wives, children, girl friends; they have SUVs and Beemers up the wazoo. They employ poor people to mop their floors, mow their lawns, serve their meals, clean up after them—but they don't want them riding busses, it would seem. Might be embarrasing or something. After all, a lot of the poor are brown-skinned and Bend is, well, white bread delux.

Bend does a lot of tourist business: destination resorts are where it's at, these days. Skiers and snowboarders in the winter, mountain bikers and white-water freaks in the summer. Tourists don't need busses...and Bend doesn't want the kind of tourists that ride busses, I think.

Anyhow, it's a dumb classist and somewhat racist situation. If you don't have a car or a mountain bike, you aren't worth considering—except for mowing lawns and bussing tables, of course...

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