This blog post is by Grace Hirshfeld, a member of the Tivnu 8 cohort from Wesley Chapel, Florida. She enjoys baking, playing sudoku, and listening to music in her hammock. She interns at Our House of Portland and Tivnu construction.
I grew up in a town just north of Tampa, Florida. In my county, we didn’t have access to the very small and limited public transportation system that served Tampa. Everything in Wesley Chapel was very spread out. The nearest Publix was only accessible by car (unless you were comfortable walking across a nine-lane intersection), and all of the schools were miles away from my house. To get around, I had to rely on my parents’ schedule. I got around well once I was able to get my driver’s license, but the price and logistics of gas were fairly limiting factors.
During Tivnu orientation, we were all given HOP cards (transit fare cards) to pay for our transportation to and from our internships. I had no idea what these little pieces of plastic did. Would I have to swipe it as I got on the bus? Would this cover my fare for the train? What about the streetcar? How would I know when each bus came and where to stand to get on? I had so many questions. I knew moving across the country for the first time without my parents would be a challenge, but I didn’t know getting around would seem so difficult, even with the orientation to public transportation that Tivnu provided. It turns out that while I came to Tivnu with lots of skills like baking and advocating for myself, I was a beginner when it came to public transportation. For this and many more reasons, I was so lucky to have met my friend, Orly.
Orly had so much experience with using public transportation growing up in New York City, and was so generous with that information. Tivnu built in learning time, and we would go on practice runs to certain locations until I felt confident with my route. We would take turns navigating our route and using the physical HOP card vs. the virtual one. I’m now a Portland bus pro. I have the confidence to get to and from where I need to go, and now have the time to relax and learn things about the city I’m living in.
Here’s one thing I really enjoyed learning: Every day, I would take the 8 bus into downtown Portland before my transfer to the 15 for my internship. Like clockwork, I would see hundreds of commuters on their respective buses, and I noticed them. I saw who sat toward the front, who talked to the bus drivers, and who preferred to stand. One day, I noticed a few buses without any commuters. I thought that it was weird that a line could be so deserted there were no Portlanders to fill a bus. Upon further investigation, I learned how bus drivers were trained to do their jobs.
One bus (with an experienced driver), would go along their normal route and act as if it were a normal day. A second bus (that was empty with the exception of the trainee driver), would follow it close behind. The second bus was learning how to do their job. It was one of the most wholesome things I’ve ever seen. Every morning, I would see these experienced and inexperienced buses going along their routes, close together like a mother and baby duck.
The use of public transportation has worked its way into my daily life and having such a snapshot of the details of the city makes Portland just that much better. Learning how to use public transportation in a city as big as Portland was definitely a challenge for me. What I forgot to consider was the learning curve for the drivers. Not only do they need to navigate city driving, they also need to be hypervigilant of pedestrians and other unpredictable components of city-living. With all of this said, I love living in Portland and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. Make way for (bus driver and new Portlander) ducklings!