by Angella Foret Diehl, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday December 04, 2008, 3:08 AM

Julia Kassissieh and her son, David, 6, wait in downtown Portland to take the bus home to Cedar Hills. This was a rare occasion when David got dropped off at his mother’s workplace. Kassissieh alternates between taking the bus and MAX. “It’s a more efficient way to get to work,” she says.

Julia Kassissieh and co-worker Jennifer Klump agree that one of their favorite job perks is the all-zone transit pass offered as part of the benefits package through the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.”It’s a more efficient way to get to work,” says Kassissieh, 39, who commutes from her home near the Sunset Transit Center, just north of U.S. 26 near Oregon 217, to the downtown Portland nonprofit laboratory.

In the summer, Kassissieh bikes to the transit center, takes the train to work and bikes home. The rest of the time, she walks a mile to the center before hopping on a train for the 20-minute commute.

Occasionally, Kassissieh will drive 3-year-old son Charlie to preschool, after which she’ll walk across the street and take the bus to work.

The Kassissieh family moved to Cedar Hills two years ago to be near Catlin Gabel School, where Richard Kassissieh is the director of information technology and 6-year-old David is a student. When Julia Kassissieh was offered the NWRL job several months later, their proximity to the Sunset Transit Center was an unexpected bonus.

Motherhood changed the commute for Klump, who lives in Aloha. Before 2-year-old Neal came along, Klump would walk to the Quatama/NW 205th Ave. Station and begin a 40-minute MAX train ride to the laboratory’s downtown office, where she’s worked for 10 years.

Now, instead of walking, Klump, 40, drives to the Willow Creek/SW 185th Ave. Transit Center and uses the park-and-ride.

Husband Lou will have dropped off Neal at a day care just across the street, and Klump picks him up on her way home from work.

Both women cite cost as one of the reasons they use public transportation.

For Kassissieh, factoring in gas prices and the $12 to $15 a day it would cost to park anywhere close to her downtown office sealed the deal.

For Klump, location influenced the family’s choice for Neal’s day care center. “We didn’t want him to be stuck in a car for 40 minutes every day,” she says.

Klump used to enjoy walking to the Quatama Transit Center but is reluctant to do so with her toddler. “There aren’t enough sidewalks, and they’re not well-lit,” she says.

Still, public transportation is worth it. “It takes just as long to drive as it does to ride.”
Transit passes help employees commute
Julia Kassissieh and Jennifer Klump’s employer, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, takes advantage of TriMet’s employer transit program to provide transit passes for employees.

To find out if your company participates in the program, which provides free or reduced-price TriMet passes to employees, ask the human resources department at your work place. Employers can find out more information about the program at: www.trimet.org/employers

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