On a night when many Portland residents were enjoying the final hours of a three-day weekend, about 70 TriMet riders rallied Monday night to kick off their campaign for a longer transfer time on the bus and MAX.

To chants of "What do we want? A Fair Transfer! When do we want it? NOW!" OPAL Environmental Justices' Bus Riders Unite! volunteers met in Southeast Portland as part of their drive to gather 3,500 signatures by May to petition TriMet to extend transfer times for bus and MAX riders.

OPAL is demanding TriMet equalize transfer times for bus and MAX riders on weekdays and weekends to three hours instead of one hour for bus riders and two hours for MAX customers. OPAL also wants TriMet to give evening riders unlimited transfer time after 7 pm.
One of the people attending the meeting last night was Myrna Andrade-Booker. The 41-year-old woman has been riding TriMet since 1989 and now can only afford single fare tickets instead of the monthly bus pass she once could afford. In 2006, Andrade-Booker sold her car for financial reasons and now relies solely on the bus system. Her biggest worry is that she'll miss her connection and lose her job or be late to appointments.

Another person attending the OPAL rally was 16-year-old Cameron Johnson. The teen-ager started volunteering with OPAL last summer after he spoke at several TriMet meetings last year. Johnson says his father recently lost his job and that the family couldn't afford to keep their car. Now everyone in his family takes the bus to the grocery store, to movies and to school. With the shorter transfer times, he says, they can't get to all of the stops they need without buying two tickets. And if that wasn't bad enough, when they miss their connection they must walk home with their groceries. Johnson says he's already collected over 700 signatures from bus riders and is excited to keep spreading the word.

Bus Riders Unite! meets once a month  to talk about transportation issues and collect signatures. For more information check out OPAL's website.