No one rides this bus: Line 55

When public transit works best, you don’t need to think about it. You can spontaneously make plans, just walk a few blocks, hop on a bus, and away you go. Don’t like that neighborhood? Get on another bus. Need to buy something on the way home? Get on the bus.

When you don’t have to plan your life around the bus and its schedule, transit can become liberating. However, what makes it hard is when you are dependent on the schedule, when your life has to revolve around when the bus comes and goes, and not when you want to come and go.

Line 55 Hamilton is one of those routes that would be hard to plan your life around. It has one trip going toward downtown Portland in the morning, and one trip going toward the Raleigh Hills neighborhood in the afternoon. One trip. One trip. Only one chance to catch the bus in the morning, and one chance to catch the bus in the afternoon. Miss it, and another one will not be coming until tomorrow.

Because there is only one opportunity to catch this bus in the morning, and one in the afternoon, the ridership reflected this. Every morning I drove the one AM trip, I picked up one person. Just one person. TriMet’s own Fall 2020 statistics show this isn’t an anomaly, with only one person getting on in the morning and no one riding in the afternoon.

This makes the 55 one of the routes with the most expensive cost per ride, at $45.92 per ride, the fifth most expensive bus line in the system (although still half the cost of TriMet’s WES commuter rail).

It’s not hard to see why the bus is so expensive to operate. If no one is riding it, TriMet is paying a driver to drive an empty bus, which makes the cost per ride more expensive.

However, no one is probably riding this bus because there is only one trip in the morning and one trip in the afternoon. Either this schedule works for you, or it doesn’t. Either you live along the route, and the time you need to go to work is the one time of day the bus rolls past your house, or it isn’t. To be successful, the bus needs to be convenient, but if it is only going by once a day, that adds no convenience.

This route suffers from a lack of service. Additional trips might not necessarily improve ridership, but if you eliminate most of the chances to ride a bus, if you make it more inconvenient, fewer people will ride it until it’s inconvenient for everyone. I’m not saying the 55 needs to have 15 minutes frequent service, but a few more trips per day would help, or at least give us an idea about whether this line is worth continuing to have.

The route is simple enough, you roll through the Raleigh Hills neighborhood in southwest Portland, past a lot of post-war homes with no sidewalks. It’s hilly, with lots of trees, and speedbumps. It’s scenic enough, I liked the big trees and exploring a neighborhood I’ve never seen before.

Eventually the route pops out in Hillsdale, making the left turn onto Capitol Highway at Sunset near Wilson High School. And this is probably where the 55 gets a lot of its use from, students from Wilson High School going to or from school, but since during the pandemic, all those kids are WFHing, the bus is empty. After this, the 55 goes down Capitol Highway to Barbur, into downtown, ending at Goose Hollow.

Would I sign it? Sure, why not? Except I wouldn’t go out of my way to sign it. I don’t like split shifts, and if you are going to drive a once a day tripper, it will be a split shift. And if I’m gonna drive a once a day tripper, I want the 30X to Estacada. Otherwise it’s a nice route, scenic, easy to keep on time, the sole downside being you pick up only one person.

Fast Facts:

Does it go to Walmart? No

Does it go to the Bottle Drop? It goes near the Bottle Drop.

Does it go downtown? Yes, during the AM trip towards downtown.

Does it go to the MAX? You can connect with the MAX on the bus mall downtown or near Goose Hollow.

Favorite Memory:

Driving over a creek near Bridlemile Elementary School that has a sign where the creek’s name is that just says “Unamed.” I feel really good the city took the time to let everyone know that a creek has no name.

Need to go somewhere else?

Line 8

Line 20

Line 57

Line 92

Line 73

Line 47

This is a personal blog, the views expressed in this blog are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of TriMet.

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Don Iler

Don Iler

I’m a public transit enthusiast in Portland, Oregon. I love public transportation, history and writing.