Call this Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito's extreme transportation makeover.
In a piece The Oregonian wrote last week about the long summer absences of Multnomah County commissioners Lisa Naito, Lonnie Roberts and Maria Rojo de Steffey, Naito told the paper she conserved energy by staying home rather than driving to work.
(If you think the three commissioners' shaky work ethics sound familiar, it's because WW reported similar habits last year for the trio; see "Whistle While You Shirk," WW , April 12, 2006.)
Wish we'd thought of that energy-saving excuse instead of faking a cough when we called our boss in July. But since we're stuck here working, we wanted to help Naito make the five-mile-plus commute, without damaging her green cred.
So, with the help of TriMet, Portland bike advocates and the car-sharing company Flexcar, we explored transportation alternatives to get Naito from the home she bought last year for $1.3 million in Northwest Portland's Hillside neighborhood to her county office in Southeast Portland.
First, there's the meat-and-potatoes of Portland's transit system: the bus. TriMet's No. 18 bus to downtown Portland snakes through Hillside, stopping a block from Naito's house. From downtown, Naito could transfer to the No. 14 bus, traveling over the Willamette River to her office on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.
Or Naito could bike to work. From her home, Naito could coast down to Northwest Johnson Street—Portland's "bike boulevard"—riding all the way to Waterfront Esplanade. Turning south to the Hawthorne Bridge, Naito could bike across the Willamette every workday.
Scott Bricker, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, recommended a hybrid bike for Naito, preferably one with a wide range of gears to tackle the steep hills on the 52-year-old commissioner's return commute.
"I'd be happy to ride with her to work to get her up to speed," Bricker says.
Kelly Stoner of the Drive Less/Save More carpooling campaign said she'd be happy to connect the commissioner with a neighbor willing to ride-share to work.
"I know Lisa is busy, but if she takes the time to step outside her normal routine, she'll find that there are a lot of transportation options out there," said Stoner.
Naito, who has a 1998 Jaguar, as well as a 1994 and 2006 BMW registered under her name, declined through her chief of staff to comment for this story
Naito also could follow the lead of fellow County Commissioner Jeff Cogen. He joined 26 other participants in July for Flexcar's "Low Car Diet" challenge, agreeing to give up his personal car for a month, relying instead on public transportation, bicycling and Flexcar.
And with all of these transportation options, there's one other way Naito could cut her commute almost by half: She could move back to the district she represents. Last year, Naito moved from her home in Laurelhurst in Southeast Portland's District 3 to her current residence in Rojo de Steffey's District 1 (see "Dissing Her District," WW , Dec. 6, 2006). The county charter allows her to represent her district while not living in it. But, given Naito's concern for the environment, that doesn't seem too green.
An estimated 15,000 commuters bike across the Willamette each day.