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William’s travels: Debrief and how you can travel from Vancouver to Portland and Salem on public transit

William’s travels: Debrief and how you can travel from Vancouver to Portland and Salem on public transit

The Buzzer blog is documenting the travels of TransLink’s William Hui while he takes public transit from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, then Salem, Oregon!

As promised, I did a quick debrief in the form of an email interview with William after his trip from Vancouver, BC to Portland, then Salem, Washington. Here’s that interview, some photos William took along the way, plus specifics on his schedule and notes for the trip if you want to take the same trip as William!

You originally planned to go from Vancouver to Portland on public transit, but you went further to Salem. Why?

William: I actually wanted to see how far south I could get on transit, so Salem was part of the original plan. If I could have gone further south, I would have. But given that I couldn’t really get further than Salem, I called this the Portland trip since I spent a weekend there anyway and more people can associate with Portland.

Was it hard to organize this trip?

William: Not really. ­As I had mentioned before, others had done parts of the trip before me, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. Google was a big help too. It was a bit frustrating at one point because the website for Twin Transit didn’t work, so I had no idea how to get schedule information, but once I got that, it was fairly straightforward. I should also mention that it took some sleuthing to find out where my transfer points were located. One of the transfer points was Chehalis (Walmart). There’s no cross-street listed, so I had to do some Googling to figure out where this Walmart was, not to mention that I had some apprehension about finding the actual stop. I’ve learned that naming stops using retailers at landmarks is actually common practice in the US.

What was the high point of your trip?

William: Upon reflection, taking the number 40 from Olympia to Elma and knowing the 90 was running that day. Being reassured I wasn’t going to be stuck in Elma while cruising down a beautiful highway was very pleasant.

What was the most challenging aspect of your trip?

William: The most challenging part of my actual trip was the walk across the border. It was pouring rain and I was pretty soaked when I got to Blaine. I ducked into a Library to warm up and dry off. What I had mentioned about the border in the first post didn’t turn out to be bad at all ­ the border guard was very nice and didn’t give me a bad time about what I had said about taking the bus to Portland. The 90 showed up as well, so that didn’t turn out bad. It didn’t have a destination sign on it, so I’m glad I asked the driver if he was driving the 90 route instead of waiting patiently at the transit station.

How was public transit similar or the same on the other side of the border?

William: It was different on different legs since I traveled on small transit systems (Whatcom County and Lower Columbia, for example) and larger transit systems (Sound Transit and TriMet, for example). But in general, I observed that the American transit systems are built to serve park and rides and have very much reduced service on weekends (some don’t service at all). This seems to suggest that their services are built to service commute trips, and not discretionary trips. I also noticed that public art is a really big thing in Oregon. One other thing is that due to the economic situation in the US right now, the federal government has stopped giving grants to transportation agencies, so a lot of passengers were talking about cuts to their services. We’re fortunate in Vancouver that we’re having discussions about how to pay for transit, not what to cut as some communities are forced to do south of the border.

What did your fellow passengers think of your trip?

William: I didn’t end up talking to a whole lot of people since people chose to sleep on the longer runs or talk about cuts to service. Those whom I did talk to didn’t think much of it, although by that time, I had already passed Olympia, so I was much closer to Portland.

Would you do this trip again? Do you have any similar style trips planned in the future?

William: Yes, I would do this trip again. However, one of the routes that was apparently at risk for being cut was the 90 from Elma to Centralia, so there may be a limited window for doing this exact trip again. Since it’s a bus route that only runs Mondays and Fridays (not Mondays to Fridays), the ridership must be quite low, so I can imagine why it is at risk of being cancelled. However, there is talk about extending Twin Transit north to Tumwater, to restore a connection previously provided by Cap Transit, so there is a more direct connection between Olympia and Centralia (I’m not sure about the Rural and Tribal Transit item as they do not seem to have a website).

I do have similar trips planned for the future. I will actually try to investigate if I can go from Salem to Nevada and into California somehow. I had originally tried to get from Salem to Eugene and south to California, but that doesn’t seem to be viable, but if I can go around into Nevada, I can technically go all the way to the US-Mexico border. But I do know one can travel from San Francisco to the US-Mexico border, so I might try that, or a train trip in Europe, or something down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

William’s trip itinerary

Destination                                                         Schedule Link

White Rock
White Rock (Marine Drive)
Cross border to Blaine
Cordata Station (Bellingham)
Downtown Bellingham
Mount Vernon
Downtown Chehalis
Chehalis (Walmart)
Vancouver (Salmon Creek)
Downtown Portland
Barbur Transit Centre (Portland)

 A few notes from William about the itinerary

  • Route 55 from Blaine to Cordata Station: we had to go on a detour as the I-5 was congested.  It made me late for the 331, but having extra time, I took the 232 and made it to Downtown by 3pm and was able to make my next connection.
  • Route 510 from Everett to Seattle: the I-5 was super congested (we sometimes sat in the HOV lane going nowhere fast). I didn’t get to my connection point until 6:45 p.m. or so.  I got on the 590 from Seattle to Tacoma around 6:55 p.m. and arrived by 8:00 p.m. in Tacoma.
  • The 105 from Salmon Creek to Portland was also delayed.  It didn’t come on time, so I got on at around 5:20 p.m. and the driver took a bit of a break at an intermediate park and ride, but somehow still made it to Downtown Portland by 6.
  • The Chehalis – Longview link will be broken as of July 1, meaning a possibly longer coastal route via Pacific County, Astoria and Tillamook.

We might have some more info on the blog about William’s time spent in Salem in the not-too-distant future.

We would love to find out if anyone else has done or is planning to do the same or similar route on public transit. Leave a comment here, and tell us all about it!




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