07 August 2015

[liff] Salem's Courthouse Square Transit Station, Feb 2008

I was born, as I've said before, in Silverton, and some assembly was required there; in about 1976, my family moved to Salem, where a lot of the preliminary finishing happened.

The years in Salem were mostly happy, at least as far as those of a kid of no obvious talents except hangin' on could be. Found my first passions, my first group of permanent friends, did some healing at the same time some other wounds were being inflicted. Life is such a mixed bag, even tho' it beats the alternative.

I spent a great deal of time with my first real freedom other than my bicycle; Cherriots. I've mentioned Salem's bus system before, in other contexts; in this one, it was my car. They let you attend any high school in Salem you could haul yourself to, just as long as you showed up; my endless quest to move off Square One led me to Sprague High, and Sprague High is where I spent my secondary school career. I don't regret it.

Throughout my mid-late teenagehood in Salem, though, Cherriots was the way to go, as far as it went. Service was only hourly, coverage was pitiful when the money wasn't there to run it, and Salem, as long as I've been alive, has never had Sunday service (now, it has even less, but they appear to be working on that).  Also, the form of the facilities has changed over time. As long as anyone's known, the central transfer point for all radiating routes has been the corner of Court and High Streets. Before the early 80s, the buses lined up along the south side of Court Street between High and Liberty and the west side of High between State and Court. Following this, the transit center moved to an island comprising the entire block of High Street between Court and State, now in front of the Marion County Courthouse; a one-block (Salem's downtown blocks are verrrry long, to a Portlander) transit mall of sorts which occupied the eastern 2 lanes of High. North and west-bound buses departed from the east side of the island; south and east from the west.

They called that Cherriot Station.

In 2000, the downtown Salem transit station finally grew up. The buildings on the north side of Court between High and Church were pulled down … including the venerable old Senator Hotel … the block was cleared, and, bingo, there was Courthouse Square and the downtown Salem 'transit mall' … the south half of the block surrounded by Chemeketa, High, Court, and Church Streets was a new, brick-covered, five-story building, and the north half was now a four-lane transit center with spacious walkways, angled turnouts. Very polished, and very nice. Well, it was until 2010, when it was discovered that the construction wasn't as sound as it should have been, and it was declared a potentially dangerous place to be.

Now, in 2015, after a flurry of legal action and a monumental and commendable repair program, as of 2014, Courthouse Square is now safe and sound and in regular use as Salem's transit hub again. Good on them for getting the job done, and more power to them.

Cherriots is in what they'd call a rebuilding year; the agency is getting set to implement a major route realignment and increase service during the days it does run (Currently Monday through Friday only), and they're beginning to plow the PR field to cultivate the idea that Salem's voters should not only re-inaugurate Saturday service (cut a few years back because the voters said 'no') but also, finally, expand to Sunday service. I hope they make it happen; Salem isn't as easy to get across on ones own as it should be. So I sincerely wish them luck here.

But I digress a bit. Let's set the time machine back to February, 2008, more than five years ago. This is long enough ago that not only did Cherriots have different routes, evolved from the original routes of the 70s that I knew so well, they still have the classic names. Routes like South Commercial, State and Fairview, 12th and Sunnyside, and Lansing and Claxtar. They still have a certain ring, even today.

The following were taken in February, 2008, with a ViviCam 3705, the old plastic fantastic.

This green banner welcomes you with a promise of service in Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.

The simplicity … and somewhat aggravating lack … of service at the time is aptly represented by this display on an informational kiosk. These are all departure times, on all routes, for all days of operation. Notice the red times? Those are the runs that only happened on Saturday. All times in black departed all five weekdays, Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday.

There was no Service.

A closeup of the schedule for Route 1 - Commercial Street, a major trunk route serving the commercial corridor extending south from downtown along Commerical St SE, with about 30 departures over the service day. Most AM runs didn't operate on Saturdays.

This photo is one of a diagram of the bus bays and where the routes dock. Very nice and ordered. I noted at the time that the font used in the bus symbols was pretty much the same as the old route-number-name font that Tri Met used at the time. I liked it. It gave it a big-city feel. As did the whole production.

This next diagram is the route network in effect as of February 2008. It's notable that Cherriots had grown from around 14 routes when I was in high school to nearly 25 routes by then. Interesting topology there, I always thought … the Salem street network is visually interesting, and the way the transit route net minimized it is a pattern I still find interesting today.

… all this on one of two informational kiosks, one at each end of the transit mall area, such as:

The 16-Four Corners bus held special nostalgia for me. When I moved into Salem from Silverton, it was the Four Corners neighborhood that I found myself in.

… and here is a long shot of the then 9-Kaiser Central bus. The color scheme of the Cherriots is simple and practical … hardworking yet unique in its way.

There were to be more pictures, but a sudden end to my photo safari, which was just to document this place for my own nostalgia and satisfaction and maybe artistic inspiration, but …

Well, it was interrupted. More on that at a later time, though.

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