by Angella Foret Diehl, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday December 04, 2008, 9:02 AM

To save money and the environment, parents and kids turn to other options — and try to keep the car garaged

Jennifer Klump, whose employer provides an all-zone transit pass, rides a MAX train on her way home to Aloha from her downtown Portland office. She chose her young son’s day care based on its closeness to a MAX station.

Unemployment is up, gas prices have been on a roller coaster in the past year and the stock market remains wobbly. Oregonians — a frugal and green bunch already — are feeling the pinch. But you can only cut so much out of the grocery budget.So, what else can give?

For many Washington County residents, the answer is the daily commute. They’re dusting off the bicycles and unearthing the helmets, researching bus and MAX schedules and coordinating car pools, all in an effort to reduce the impact of a daily commute on their wallet and the environment.

It’s not just the commuters looking at alternative transportation options.

Parents, students, volunteers and senior citizens are moving to walking, bicycling and public transportation. TriMet reports MAX and bus lines continue to set ridership records, with more than 9 million trips taken throughout the Metro area in October alone. The biggest increase, the agency says, has been among rush-hour commuters, with nearly 11 percent more rush-hour trips compared with October 2007.

Last week, in an effort to reduce crowding, TriMet added service on 13 of its 93 bus lines, including the 12-Barbur Blvd line that runs to Tigard and Sherwood, and the MAX Blue Line.

We talked with some Washington County residents — and a North Portland resident who works here — and found a few surprises about why they avoid or are relying less on their cars for commuting. It’s not all about the environment or cost. It’s also about exercising, saving money, having fun and preserving a way of life.

These public transportation veterans offer their stories and advice for “greening” your own commute. They include New York transplants who didn’t own a car before moving to Oregon, a Tigard schoolteacher with surprising reasons for his two-hour daily commute and two co-workers who navigate the metro area’s trains and buses for work and errands.

Tips for families
How do busy families make a public transit, carpool or bicycle commute work for them?
Preparation is key: For Jamie Repasky, public commuting with little ones means being prepared. She packs snacks and water, and she engages her children in games. Her two children love their MAX trips, she says. “Torin is always asking, ‘When are we going on my train?'”
Carpooling: Try making your child’s day care center the meeting place for your carpool, Carpool Match NW recommends. Or meet at a central location, such as a park-and-ride lot.
Don’t forget to have fun: David Lord’s family doesn’t mind his commute — in fact, his partner, Elise, sometimes takes their daughters to school by bus. Lord’s recreational riding includes weekend bike races, and he admits to having to “tone it down” for daughter Luciana, 7. “I have to make bike riding fun for her. She’s a little intimidated by me, so I make sure we’re having a good time,” he says.

Julia Kassissieh is proud of the fact that 6-year-old son David is, she says, “an accomplished biker,” riding to school with Dad in warm weather.

Resources

Thinking about moving beyond your solo drive to work and trying MAX, the bus, a bike or car pool? These sites can help get you started:

Metro Google Maps “Bike There” overlay program: tinyurl.com/5wvkjt

TriMet: trimet.org

TriMet WES commuter rail: trimet.org/wes/index.htm. New weekday rush-hour service between Wilsonville and Beaverton is scheduled to begin in February.

Westside Transportation Alliance: wta-tma.org. Organization of businesses and public agencies promotes transportation options that help ease congestion, support economic development and conserve resources.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance: bta4bikes.org. Promotes bicycling and improving cycling conditions in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Carpool Match NW: carpoolmatchnw.org. Car pool and ride-share matching site serving Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Drive Less/Save More: drivelesssavemore.com. Effort launched by Oregon Department of Transportation, Metro, TriMet, city of Vancouver and other partners to reduce single-person car trips. Web site includes Travel Options Guides available for download, plus a driving-cost calculator.
The Oregonian’s West Bureau: 503-294-5950; west@news.oregonian.com

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