Greatly as I enjoyed Edwin Slipek’s enthusiastic report on the first day of Norfolk’s Tide light-rail service, I would strongly encourage Richmonders serious about mass transit to seize any opportunity to visit a medium-sized city with a fully-developed light-rail system that reaches virtually all of the region’s urban and suburban areas.
In several visits to Portland, Ore., I have had the opportunity to use its Metropolitan Area Express light-rail system and to appreciate what a great thing such a system can be. A few examples:
- Passengers arriving at Portland International Airport can catch a train, known as MAX, and be downtown in about 20 minutes, at a trivial cost compared with cab fare. Alternatively, those choosing to stay at airport hotels can avoid renting cars by catching a convenient train from the attractive Cascade Station shopping center.
- To accommodate Portland’s large community of bicyclists, each train is equipped with hooks on which bikes can be suspended by their front wheels, avoiding inconvenience to other passengers.
- Because trains are clean, modern and well-appointed, ridership is remarkably democratic, bringing Portland residents of all backgrounds together in a way Richmonders would find surprising.
I certainly intend to take Mr. Slipek up on his suggestion and visit Norfolk to ride the new Tide. But any Richmond-area resident serious about mass transit should look for an excuse to visit Portland, where light-rail is a way of life.