Check out Cherriots! Profiles celebrating bus riders, bus culture and sustainable transportation.
Clowning Around on the Bus - Christine Daley
If you’ve ever ridden Route 2, the odds are good that Christine Daley has sat next to you and struck up a conversation.
“I really enjoy people who bring their kids on the bus, the little ones,” said Daley, who has the safe aura of a grandmother. She makes eye contact with the kids, they smile and soon the parents are drawn into a conversation with her.
Her day job is working as a receptionist at Oregon Employment Department headquarters in Salem. It’s her sideline occupation that explains her knack with kids. She’s been a professional clown, who entertains at children’s birthday parties, for more than 20 years.
Corky, her clowning alter ego, has never hopped aboard a bus --not even a tiny one -- to get to work. Daley, however, relies on Cherriots to make her commute from Woodburn to her state job in Salem.
The state worker drives her car for part of the trip. She uses a park and ride at Hawthorne Avenue Northeast and Market Street Northeast in Salem, and then gets on a Cherriots bus.
Why she rides
For Daley, who’s been a Cherriots rider for about a year, the scarcity and high cost of parking at the Capitol Mall made taking the bus an easy decision. She previously paid $6 a day to park in the state’s Yellow Lot.
“My reduced senior rate for a bus pass is $22.50 a month, so it’s a no-brainer,” Daley said. When she’s ready to go home, she waits at a bus stop across the street from her office.
Five years ago, Daley got on the waiting list for a space in the state’s underground parking structure at the Capitol Mall. She recently received an email saying she was 15th from the top of the list.
“They said it was $65 a month (to rent a parking space). I am going to stick with the bus,” Daley said.
Her favorite transit operator is Heidi Moffitt, whose cheerful disposition rubs off on passengers. But Daley also appreciates that transit operators can be stern when necessary, such as the time when a young woman loudly spewed profanities while talking on a cell phone.
Daley confronted the passenger, who became belligerent. The transit operator intervened and gave the offensive passenger the choice of cleaning up her language or getting off the bus.
Daley said anyone can learn to adjust their morning routine and get to the bus stop on time. Also, she said, remember to talk with your “bus buddies.”
Sometimes, kind words can change lives.
Daley remembers a shy teen on the bus, who had tuned out the world with headphones. She began talking with the withdrawn girl, and over the course of several bus rides, the teen became animated and began sharing her stories.
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Cherriots, A Ride for Everyone - Marja Byers
For Marja Byers, a bus line is a lifeline.
Because of a genetic disorder, called Marfan syndrome, Byers has had eye problems since childhood. The chalkboard at school and the giant “E” at the top of her ophthalmologist’s eye chart appeared as a dark blur.
Her limited eyesight worsened with age. Seven years ago, the northeast Salem resident started using a white cane. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or getting to her job, Byers relies exclusively on public transit.
Byers serves as executive director of Blindskills Inc., a Salem-based nonprofit group. The dependence of the blind community on Cherriots has also made her a strong advocate for bus service.
Why she rides the bus
Most of Byers’ friends have vision impairments and she knows few drivers. If someone with a car offers her a ride to the store, she is more than likely to turn them down.
“I want to be able to get there on my own time, on my own terms,” said Byers, who has only a narrow field of clear vision and is legally blind.
Her remaining eyesight was once threatened by a medical emergency. It was a Cherriots Regional bus and a transfer to the Portland area’s TriMet transit system that got her to the Casey Eye Institute in time for surgery.
Cherriots has trained its employees to recognize the challenges facing people who are visually impaired. The training, Byers said, helps passengers travel with confidence. Small details, such as transit operators noticing blind passengers when they board the bus and being aware of their destinations, make a big difference, she said.
Byers also appreciates transit hosts, such as Daniel Kiener, who help Cherriots riders navigate the Downtown Transit Center: “We all love Daniel because he knows our patterns and watches out for us.”
Byers recommends the Cherriots free travel training program for those unsure of their ability to use transit. This instructional program is open to everyone.
“You really don’t have an excuse. You have someone who can do one-on-one training,” Byers said. Smartphone apps for navigation, some designed specifically for users who are blind, have also been a great help for those who are visually impaired, , she said.
Social isolation can be a hazard for persons with little or no vision, but all the skills required to use public transit can be learned, Byers said. She is encouraged by the numbers of bus riders, who are blind and visually impaired, she meets on Cherriots.
“I see a lot more white canes in downtown Salem than I ever saw before,” Byers said. “It’s good. We’re being mobile and staying engaged in the community.”
State Employee's Bike and Bus Commute - Chris Havel
Chris Havel doesn’t let heavy traffic spoil his commute.
In the early morning, Havel pedals a bicycle for 12-minutes to reach his job at the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, 725 Summer St. NE in Salem.
Havel, a resident of south Salem, serves as the state agency’s assistant director and manages communications, policy, research and marketing.
When the workday ends, Havel hangs his bike on the rack of a Cherriots bus and enjoys the ride home on public transit. His personal vehicle, a truck, never leaves his driveway until the weekend when he’s running errands.
Why he rides the bus
The state worker said his reasons for using Cherriots are about “60 percent convenience and 40 percent savings.”
For Havel, riding a bike to work and taking the bus home eliminates the hassle and expense of parking a car. He also figures it’s faster for him to bike to work than drive and find a parking space.
“I get to sleep in another 10 minutes, get up, have my toast, hop on my bike and end up at work,” Havel said.
In the late afternoon, Havel avoids the perils of bicycling in rush-hour traffic by riding the bus. Havel is particularly safety conscious after a motorist in downtown Salem struck his bike a few years ago, catapulting him through the air.
“When the traffic is really tight, I am on the bus,” Havel said. His ride home on Route 21 is a 10-minute trip. His commute ends with a quick bike ride.
Time on the bus also gives Havel a chance to unwind. He sees the same faces, day-after-day, on the bus and often talks with other passengers.
“You form a community and it’s rude to ignore your peeps,” he said.
Try taking the bus once a week, Havel said, and see how it goes. Riding public transit requires more planning and patience than using a personal vehicle, but test your assumptions before deciding that riding Cherriots is incompatible with your schedule, he said.
As for Havel, he’s saving money by driving less. Besides savings on gasoline and parking, Havel’s motor vehicle insurance bill has dropped by about 30 percent because of driving habits. His truck is so rarely used that it only needs an oil-change once a year.