High on mass transit

Sitting on the MAX the other day, my nose became almost certain that someone near by had rolled in a pile of weed, or maybe they smoked for days on end without a shower.

Sitting on the MAX the other day, my nose became almost certain that someone near by had rolled in a pile of weed, or maybe they smoked for days on end without a shower. Surprisingly, the intense skunky-ness of the weedy smell was someone two rows back actually lighting up a bowl while ducking behind a seat.

First off, I do have to say that the pothead absolutely had cojonés. Medical card or not, you can’t smoke Mary Jane in a public setting. Furthermore you definitely can’t smoke a substance of any kind on TriMet.

This really struck me as a little pathetic. Does one really need to get high on the go? Can’t you wait until you’ve made it home, or whatever your destination happens to be? Perhaps you could select a more discrete method such as edibles? As much as I found it rather comical in the moment, I understand why it would cause concern with others.

Since moving to Portland, I’ve heard first-hand accounts of people witnessing others smoking marijuana, crack, drinking booze and snorting cocaine on various forms of public transit.

“Jane,” a downtown student who wished to remain anonymous, is one such witness.

“They were stomping back and forth smelling their hands, nearly shouting ‘Oh God! My hands still smell like those rocks!'” said Jane of a group of girls frying on crack while on the MAX. “As the MAX pulled into the next station a vacant parked cop car sent the group into a panicked frenzy. The most active of them yelling out, ‘Guys! Jesus! What if those cops have drug-sniffing horses!'”

As funny as it can all sound at times, I know a great deal of people who are upset by these activities and even the presence of those using or rolling on certain drugs while riding. I joined a conversation with a group of strangers on the 15 bus this week as a small argument broke out after a disruptive, and obviously wasted, passenger got off. Some  of the group thought that everyone should mind their own business when it comes to substances.

But Portland resident Andy Plath feels he has had enough.

“I’ve considered saving up for my own car about a hundred times just to avoid the druggy people on the buses,” Plath said.

He went on to express that he felt TriMet needs to enforce higher security.

“With how much goes on, I’d go as far as saying we need security on the MAX 24/7 at least,” Plath said.

Putting it under consideration, I suppose the presence of security personnel wouldn’t hinder my transit experience. It would likely make most passengers feel more at ease and safer when traveling. TriMet could potentially up its security in these ways, but at what cost? If TriMet is going to employ an entire league of rent-a-cops to the transit system it would guarantee that ticket prices go up again to support such an influx of new employees. Something I’m definitely not for.

TriMet has not left us helpless against people causing a commotion. There are security cameras running, though they may not be at an angle capable of catching someone ducking behind a seat to freebase out of a tinfoil pipe.

Their phone number can be called at any time of day to report such disturbances. I realize that a phone call will not get the immediate response that an onboard guard would, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

Certain things just come along with city living, and people on drugs is part of that. I’ve found myself in plenty of uncomfortable situations with individuals that are less than sober since moving to Portland, but as cheap as it sounds, I’d rather deal with them than the tacked on expense to my Flexpass. Not to mention I’d gladly see people high as a kite on the bus than behind the wheel of a car. They may be a disruption to the peaceful atmosphere, but at least they are putting others immediately in harms way.

There is no foolproof solution. People will always find a way to do drugs, and charging more to ride would cause more upset across Portland than any user could.

Stepping out your front door means exposing yourself to certain risk factors, including interacting with people strung out on one thing or another. We can toughen up and hope for the best, but riding public transit will always have its drawbacks no matter how secure we try to make it. ?