Thursday, September 17, 2015

Planning to visit Portland? Don't let any of these gems slip off your list:

Courtesy: Thrillist.comFound on:

People in Portland love to talk about food. Specifically, they love talking about the same food. Over and over. So much so that, in the constant barrage of foodie-speak, reviews, and buzz, certain restaurants get lost in a sea of hype and repetition.
Sometimes, the mark of a good restaurant has nothing to do with trends or what your foodie friend says you should be eating. Sometimes -- and this is wild, so bear with us -- the mark of a good restaurant is that it makes great food. These are the 14 most underrated restaurants in Portland.


What you’re getting: Peixinhos da horta and the sautéed shrimp

Hidden in plain sight, Fado is the best-kept secret in Sunnyside, serving owner Nick Ross’ grandma’s traditional recipes that he came to love during his childhood days in the Bay. (He’ll be wearing a Giants hat, and he sports it with ferocity. Dodgers fans beware.) Start with the must-order bar snack that is ubiquitous in Portugal: tempura-fried green beans with house-made mayonnaise and piri piri sauce (peixinhos da horta). That’s the perfect start to a menu that includes wine-steamed clams, steak, and sausage flambéd tableside.


What you’re getting: Crawfish Anh Luu or the nightly seafood boil

Don't let the kitschy Mardi Gras look fool you: Tapalaya takes its Cajun-with-a-pinch-of-Vietnamese cuisine seriously. But you should get into the spirit, so grab a communal fedora and furry boa to don while you feast on crawfish over creamy stone-ground grits swimming in a peppered orange-brown sauce, a dish named after Tapalaya chef Anh Luu. If you’re willing to do some work, go for the seafood boil and peel your way to shellfish rapture, or settle in for one of Portland’s best mac & cheese bowls. You may sweat, depending on your tolerance for spice, but that’s no reason to be embarrassed -- plenty of other bald men have perspired into the exact fedora now sitting atop your cranium.



What you’re getting: Escargot à la Bistro Cocotte

Depending on whom you ask, a Cocotte’s either a fashionable French prostitute or cookware similar to a Dutch oven (but, well, French). And both can produce euphoric results (or so we hear). The chefs at Cocotte have perfected the use of the latter with their signature dish of pan-roasted half chicken atop farro risotto and veggies all soaking in rich jus. This small, airy establishment inside a pocket of Killingsworth’s best new restaurants is both understated and classy, featuring a solid cocktail list with a few original concoctions alongside mainstays like the Vieux Carré. And the lemon-tinged snails are the best in town. Nine out of 10 French prostitutes agree!


What you’re getting: Brussels and pork au gratin
If you must drag yourself to the Lloyd Center mall for your goth cousin’s birthday present from Hot Topic, resist the urge to grab an Auntie Anne’s pretzel on your way out. You’ll want to escape the mall mayhem for a two-block jaunt back to reality. What reality you ask? The one where there’s a great European-inspired restaurant in the basement of a Victorian home. Enter Petisco, with its rotating menu of solid French-Italian sandwiches and indulgent dinner courses like bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Spending an afternoon to buy those adhesive vampire fangs won’t be a total waste after all.


What you’re getting: The breakfast pillow

The perfect place to watch the hordes mill in line outside of Gravy, Equinox is the best-kept brunch secret in the Mississippi 'hood... and there’s never a line. Not that the food’s not worth it. Take, for example, the breakfast pillow, a puff pastry loaded with roasted veggies, topped with poached eggs, and drizzled with cheese sauce. There’s a meaty version too, if you really want to just go back to bed afterward. Meanwhile, dinner’s equally satisfying, and includes a brown sugar- and coffee-encrusted tuna that would be right at home in the morning. Thankfully, you don’t have to wake up early to get it in your mouth.


La Panza

What you’re getting: Green chile cheese fries and a red chile bowl (add a fried egg)

How many quality restaurants share a building with a Plaid Pantry? One, I can think of only one, and it’s La Panza (The Belly), whose patio tables have taken over several parking spots. It’s rarely found outside of its home borders, and those in the know will tell you that a New Mexican restaurant is only as good as its chile. So strip away all the fluff and eat a bowl of straight-up deep-red chile with pinto beans. After soaking up the last bit of spicy sauce with your tortilla, you’ll think you’re on top of a mesa watching a Southwestern thunderstorm ravage the purple sky -- no, wait, you’re still in the dull gray parking lot of a convenience store.


What you’re getting: Chive blinis with trout caviar and crème fraiche

Though consistently earning industry accolades, Cabezon made it to our underrated list because you people don’t seem to get the message that it’s worth pulling off Sandy in the no-man’s land between Hollywood and Beaumont for Chef Dave Farrell’s seafood classics and fresh creations. If the cioppino alone doesn’t keep you going back, there’s something wrong with you... and you’ve never had a chive blini!


What you’re getting: Fried pork paillard

From the outside, Roost looks like it could be a little coffee shop on a quiet stretch of Belmont, right before things begin to get chaotic. In actuality, it's serving up a fresh array of amped-up comfort food, from a fantastic take on the pork cutlets to fried goat cheese, putting a farm-fresh American flair into Mediterranean and Euro fare. It’s a true testament when something as simple as a roasted chicken can be elevated to this level. Maybe it’s just because the resto is called Roost. Or maybe it’s because the place knows its way around a bird.

Tienda Santa Cruz

St. Johns
What you’re getting: Los Angeles street-style carnitas burrito

Some people think of Portland as a vacuum for LA-style Mexican greatness. Those people don’t make it up to St. Johns nearly enough, because the neighborhood is enough to make a California transplant forget the Mission (not that they’d venture that far North). And what comes with the best burritos and tacos in Portland? The greatest all-you-can-smother salsas and pickled vegetables bar in the area, of course. And it’s all served up in the traditional Mexican-food environment: an unassuming little grocery store.

Sushi Ichiban

What you’re getting: Salmon nigiri, spicy tuna hand roll

Despite an absence of dairy, a sushi train can be cheesy. So how does Sushi Ichiban transcend this to become one of the city’s best? Well, for one, it ditches the stuffiness in favor of loud rock music. And, more importantly, the train thing is literal: a Southern Pacific toy train hauls a number of classic, perfectly assembled, crisp sushi rolls straight to you. More importantly, though, it’s delicious in a way that transcends gimmicks. Though in this case, the gimmick is half the fun.


Baan Thai

What you’re getting: Pad kee mao

Close to the PSU campus, Baan Thai serves the exact same Thai dishes you can get at any of the dozens of surrounding Thai carts, except its take on them is 100x better. Baan Thai’s specialty is definitely its unique and extreme spice levels balanced with traditional basil, lime, and fish flavors. We recommend the mild pad kee mao. Just be warned, this spot's version of “mild” is actually a euphemism for “holy shit!”

Pepper Box

What you’re getting: The Original with carne adovada

Located on a mostly barren-looking strip of SE Morrison, Pepper Box is the gem on the block. The portions are huge -- be warned, you may not actually need to order more than one pastrami breakfast taco, and the sauces are to die for. You're asked to choose New Mexican red chile or New Mexican green chile to add to your dish. The correct answer is, of course, both. Always both. Why pin them against each other when they actually get along so well? Pro tip: don’t skip on the green chile cheese fries. Actually, that’s more of a life tip. You’re welcome.

Swift Lounge

What you’re getting: Fondue fries and Brussels sprouts

Forget everything you’ve heard about this place, including the gorgeous hipsters and giant Mason jar drinks. The food menu is the main attraction at Swift Lounge. Yes, it has your regular old hamburgers and pork sliders, but what you actually want to order are the veg-based plates such as the one-of-a-kind fondue fries, roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and sautéed broccoli. Like your ma said, eat your veggies. They’re probably not healthy anyway, and they’re delicious.

Devil’s Dill

What you’re getting: Red wine-braised beef

Devil’s Dill takes its sandwiches seriously. The red wine-braised beef sandwich? Yep, that was braised in-house, and is, for the record, delicious. The sandwiches are consistently flavorful, and you can tell with each bite that every component is super fresh. These guys take no shortcuts in their sandwich art. They do, however, take shortcuts when they deliver to your house until 2:30am.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Back by popular demand

Due to an uptick in requests for new blog posts, (I mean, it's only been like, two years) I'm starting this thing up again. You could say I'm starting 'from scratch', but that would only be true in one sense.

Back to the point- this post is on 'From Scratch' but I'm going in a new direction. In the past two years, and perhaps even longer than that, I've realized that sustainability and environmentalism isn't reading or writing an article, or recycling, it's a way of life. It's an adaption of a mindset and habits. Thus, I'd like to focus my blog on a new concept- I propose "One/Day" or "One a Day", like the women's vitamin, but not in vitamin form. I'm going to post at least one new thing I learn, discover, re-learn, or just want to share with you guys. There will be less of an emphasis on sustainability or green-ness, and more of an emphasis on a life pro tip to share. Less pressure = more creativity, right? 

My first "One a Day" (work in progress title) will be my recent discovery of this little life saver I was shown the other day on my bike:

These little screws are called "front fork rack braze-ons." They're on both sides of the fork and are designed to be utilized when installing a front rack. I have the Mercier Kilo-TT bike (I couldn't find a picture of it with the front fork rack braze-ons) but I don't have a front rack, just a rear, so these screws instead act as emergency screws. And this is the life pro tip: I just recently used the two screws as replacements for the two that fell off my rear rack. What a relief- I didn't even realize they were loose until they were gone!

Have you checked on your rear or front rack lately? Tighten those screws and while you're there, check if your bike has front fork braze-ons aka your emergency screws.

Over and out for today.


Friday, August 24, 2012

A New First: Bike Touring

Last weekend, friends and I bike toured from Portland to the Salem area. In sum:

Portland to Willamette Mission State Park Camp Ground, 50 miles
Willamette Camp Ground to friend of a friend's farm, 20 miles
Friend of a friend's farm to Beaverton Max station, 55 miles

We left Portland Friday morning around 10am, just as the temperature crept on 80. By the time we made it out of the metro area, the weather was a solid 95 and dry. Can we get a breeze here? Alas, our only source of refreshment came out of our warm, warm water bottles. 

Overall, it was a great first-time bike/camping tour. We made great time, didn't run low on water/food, and our bikes powered through just as smoothly as our quads. I would highly recommend the campsite, especially if you're camping via boat, as camp site fees are waived for the floaties. 

Our first stop of the ride after climbing hundreds of feet. Morale was still high.

The Butteville cafe/store! Our first official re-fill stop. I will be
eternally grateful for their air conditioner and lemony water.

Willamette Mission State Park Bike camp site. The camp site
was fully equipped with bike racks and drinkable water, a haven
indeed. Good to note: Willamette State Park only allows
"alternative" camping, including group camping,
bike and hike, horse camping, and boat camping.
No cars! No prob!

Unloading the panniers/bungeed items.

Another friend met up with us at the camp site in the A.M.
Day 2: Wine tasting at a small Salem winery. Nom Yum.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From a population of 8 million to a population of 590,000 + me

I have in fact moved to Portland from New York City. A change- for which it was time- was desired and PDX has fulfilled this yearning for me. In case there's any confusion, the move was very much premeditated and not as abrupt as this post; I am now ready to officially officiate my move. 

Though I made the coast-to-coast move in early June, it took a bit of time to settle in, including settling into my Portland blogging mode. One can't just move to a new city and start blogging without acquainting myself with my new surroundings, right? And waiting has paid off- I now have a variety of photos, a handful of opinions and am developing a more localized environmental-perspective.

Friend's backyard chicken. After 5 long months
of coddling and constant feeding, this little hen has
started laying. Fresh eggs everyday, delish.
Speaking of, since living here for about two months, I can already confirm that the suspicions, stereotypes, generalizations and labels of the Pacific Northwest aka PNW (Yes, I love acronyms and PNW is one I've already overused) as super green and eco-conscious is completely... accurate. I have never lived in a city where topics of alternative modes of transit, recycling, composting, and other general eco-conscious behaviors, are so frequently discussed and in such prevalence. This is a sincere breath of fresh air, taking some environmental tension off my shoulders. Front lawns here are edible, and backyard chickens are a familiar sight and sound. Each house has a compost container, a plastics/paper recycling bin, and a bin just for glass containers. Plentiful bike lanes, dots, signs, and even bike fanatic billboards, too.

Friend's frontyard planter boxes. Made of found wood
and a sailboat from a "free box" down the block. NE Portland.
Alt. view of the planter boxes.

My own front yard planter box, overfilling
with multiple varieties of kale.
I live in a city where raspberries,
blackberries, and blueberries
grow wild. Who knew?? Pie: everyday.
Look at this zucchini! Also from our planter box- have you
ever seen one this big? Unsure of the variety...

Took an afternoon bike trip to the beginning
 of the Columbia gorge. Severely cold water,
 also severely serene.
View from a cliff somewhere south of Portland.
We stayed at a friend's grandfather's ranch an
hour south of Portland. Quiet had never sounded
so mute. 
We're swimming in fresh cucumbers! Our cucumber plants
are ready for harvest, and we're scrambling to pickle them away.
I'm definitely loving eating fresh, crisp front yard cucumbers
for lunch everyday. Cucumbers+sambal=*-*!! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One More! New HGTV article published: The 10 Greatest Cycling Cities in America

Dear readers,

I have one more "10 Best" article under my sleeve, and this one is "The 10 Greatest Cycling Cities in America." I love that I was able to write about alternative modes of transportation for HGTV online. It's a topic I am certainly passionate about, and I think there is significance to being able to reach a broad audience through HGTV's network and strong online presence. A lot of in-depth research went into these articles, and I interviewed some really awesome advocates and cyclers.

The article is copy/pasted below, including a link to the published article on HGTV's website. If you're into slideshows, I would highly recommend reading the article directly on the site.


As oil prices rise and it becomes increasingly challenging to fit daily exercise into our busy schedules, cycling as a mode of transportation and recreational activity may be an ideal solution. Discover which cities offer the safest biking infrastructure and the most supportive cycling communities.

Portland, Ore.
Portland boasts a strong and enthusiastic bike scene consisting of a large number of regular cyclers on the road, government-supported bike infrastructure, several government and privately supported bike programs, and an abundance of bike resources such as retail shops and instructional co-ops. Local rider Leah Bendlin says the city's condensed design makes biking easy and that local establishments offer incentives for bikers. "Bars will sometimes have special deals for people who bike there, though most people bike to bars anyways," she says.

According to Portland's Bureau of Transportation, the city has the highest share of bicycle commuters at 6 percent to 8 percent. Portland is also the only large city (with a population of 529,121 persons) to earn The League of American Bicyclists' platinum status as a bicycle-friendly city. The most appealing element about Portland's bicycle scene is the city's general pro-cycling attitude and integrated amenities such as convenient bike parking and extensive, well-marked bike lanes. This city's citizens express their love of cycling through events like BikeCraft, a two-day gift fair exclusively dedicated to bike accessories and designs.

New York, N.Y.
Though swarming with cutthroat cabs, zigzagging pedicabs and commuting drivers, New York City has a well-established and swiftly growing bike culture. New York's hardy bicycle messengers have always givenbikes a strong presence in the city, but there's also a growing population of bicycle commuters. Though the percentage of bicycle commuters may seem slim at .61 percent, it's still a sizeable number when you consider New York's population of almost 8.4 million people.

Thanks to NYC's proactive Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, additional bike lanes are planned for the city, as well as a Bike Share program expected to be available to the public starting summer 2012. In just three years, from 2006 to 2009, NYC's Department of Transportation added 200 bike-lane miles in all five boroughs. DOT also supports biking through events such as Summer Streets, in which several highly congested NYC streets are closed off to traffic for several hours during a few summer weekends.

San Francisco, Calif.

Home to the forward-thinkers of Apple, Twitter and Facebook, and leaders of countless grassroots movements and alternative lifestyle fads, the Bay Area is a natural fit for this list. According to the SanFrancisco Bicycle Coalition, the city has seen a 58 percent increase in its number of cyclers between 2006 and 2010. This number is especially impressive considering the city's shockingly steep hills. But San Franciscans are serious about their two-wheeled ride of choice. The SF Bike Coalition offers urban cycling workshops as well as bike maps that guide riders to the flattest and shortest routes.

Currently, the city's percentage of bicycling commuters is 2.98 percent. Like New York City, San Francisco plans to start a bike share program in the spring of 2012. The program will consist of 50 bike share stations and 500 bikes. Additionally, during peak commute hours, the city offers a $1 Bay Bridge shuttle exclusively for cyclers and their bikes. And once its 2013-projected retrofit project is complete, the Bay Bridge will also include a 15.5-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian path. Photo courtesy of SFCVB/Jack Hollingsworth

Minneapolis, Minn.
Minnesota's cycling scene ranges from slow rides in the summertime to blizzard battles in the winter. Minnesotans welcome the cold-weather challenge, as Minneapolis' bike scene is flourishing. The city boasts the most bike parking available per capita in the country. The U.S. Census Bureau ranks the city number two for its percentage of commuters who bike to work, ringing in at 3.8 percent of its population. 

Still having trouble getting past the image of cyclists braving ice-covered streets? The challenging weather is what makes Minneapolis' riding scene so unique and impassioned. Many local riders simply layer up and take on the appropriate precautions. The city's website is a good resource for winter biking tips and shares words of encouragement for new riders.

Washington, D.C.
Thanks to its temperate weather and stately architecture, our nation's capital is ideal for both urban and recreational bike riding. With a bike commuter percentage of 2.17, D.C.'s small-town feel makes urban cycling a joy as well as a convenient, safe mode of transportation. "One of the most unique things about biking in Washington is how pleasant every trip can be," says local rider Akshai Singh. Without the traffic congestion that taints NYC, D.C. offers its cyclists a scenic and stress-free riding experience. "The more bikers there are, the safer it is to bike," Akshai continues. "D.C. has recognized this fact, embraced biking, and residents are better off for their openness."

Furthermore, D.C. was the first U.S. city to implement a bike share program, which it launched in 2008. The program's success was best illustrated after its unpredicted earthquake occurred on August 23, 2011, when D.C.'s Capital Bike Share program recorded 1,236 rides between 2 and 4 p.m. that day -- more than three times the number of rides recorded for the same period the previous day. When the city's Metro was delayed and most roads were jammed, D.C. residents saw bikes as an ideal transportation solution.

Boulder, Colo.
With a majority of its population under 45 years of age, Boulder's youthful and pioneering population is perfect for a thriving and advocacy-driven bike scene. The University of Colorado adds 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students to the city's modest total population of 97,385 residents. Despite its sometimes challenging weather (with an average of 83 inches of snowfall a year, plus 300 sunny days a year) the percentage of bike commuters here is 4.77 percent.

Perfect for both urban and off-road biking, Boulder boasts 200 miles of public hiking and bike trails, as well as approximately 30,000 acres of open space. Additionally, 95 percent of its arterial roads have bike lanes or trails. Here, you can bike through the city to work, or take the scenic route back along the Boulder Creek Path.

Seattle, Wash.
Hands down, the most impressive feature of Seattle's bicycle scene is its extensively detailed and publicized Bicycle Master Plan. Designed to boost the current commuter percentage of 2.99, the Bicycle Master Plan calls for 118 miles of new bike lanes, 19 miles of trails and new signs to aid in cycling awareness. At an estimated cost of $240 million, the Master Plan includes a project to create "bike boulevards" -- eight miles of streets marked for bike travel as an alternative to riding on heavily used arterial roads.

Divided by just a few hundred miles, Seattle's bike scene may seem tame in comparison to Portland's. But with its strong community bike scene combined with its government-funded and supported 10-year bike plan, Seattle is on the cusp of making bicycling the safest and most affordable transportation choice.

Philadelphia, Pa.
In a city where studies have proven that commuting by bike is actually faster than by bus or car, Philadelphia proves its bike enthusiasm by turning its traffic-congested central areas into bicycle-friendly zones.

With a 2009 bike commuter percentage of 2.16, Philadelphia has installed approximately 1,000 bicycle racks in its Center City and surrounding neighborhoods. Though Philadelphians mostly commute by car (61 percent), followed by public transportation (26.4 percent), walking (8 percent) and riding a bicycle (2.16 percent), Philadelphia's bicycle commute "mode share" (1.2 percent) is larger than New York City's (.06 percent), though not quite as large as Washington D.C.'s (2.0 percent) and Portland's (4.0 percent).

Aside from its growing bicycle-friendly infrastructure, Philly has a colorful bike scene, consisting of enthusiasts who find the city's quaint size conducive to daily commutes or just riding with friends. Philly's annual Tweed Ride attracts large crowds decked out in vintage wear; if you're lucky, you may even spot a penny-farthing or two at this event.

Chicago, Ill.
As illustrated by a letter from Mayor Rahm Emanuel (full text can be found at, the City of Chicago stands behind its cyclists and is dedicated to broadening the city's cycling community. The letter details an extensive bike network as one of the mayor's top priorities and cites the health, community and environmental benefits of urban cycling.

Chicago's Department of Transportation already has a grand plan, called the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, for developing a citywide network of 150 to 250 miles of bikeways with the goal of safely connecting residents to their daily needs. With a 2009 percentage of bike commuters of 1.15, the city's plan hopes to ingrain a sense of safety upon its residents, making bicycling the most beneficial mode of transportation. Bonus point: To draw attention to the Cycling Plan, the city created a Facebook page to keep community members updated on its progress and to attract volunteers and feedback.

Cleveland, Ohio
The underdog of this list, this historic rust belt city is home to an impassioned and persevering community of bike riders. Cleveland's most-recent bicycle endeavor, The Complete and Green Streets ordinance, consists of a law that requires 20 percent of money spent on road projects to go to bike-friendly features such as bike-only lanes -- one of several efforts to increase the city's bike commuter percentage of .39. "Cleveland was one of the first cities in the country to temporarily close streets to motorized traffic so they can be enjoyed by cyclists and pedestrians," say local rider Jeff Sugalski.

Another exciting feature of Cleveland's urban cycling scene is its Metroparks, or nature preserves with walking, hiking and bicycling trails along river paths and creeks. Local rider Shawn Mariani is a true believer in the city's bike scene. "The growth that Cleveland's bike culture has had recently is tremendous, and the only change I would like to see for the future is increased numbers of people on bikes," he says.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New HGTV article published: The 10 Greatest Cities for Mass Transportation

Hello readers,

The article I wrote on mass transit a few months ago is finally up and published on the HGTV website! It looks snazzy and is jam-packed with good information. Check it out, maybe your city made it on my list. A copy of the article is shown below, but I would highly recommend clicking on the link to read and view it as a slideshow.


Mass transit is making a comeback: In 2011, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on buses, trains and light-rail systems. Want to be a part of the mass transportation trend? Consider moving to one of these 10 cities with superb mass transportation systems.

New York Metro Area

The country's most widespread mass transportation system with a strong network more than 100 years old, New York City's mass transit services take commuters and visitors to all ends of the city, as well as its surrounding areas. Consisting of ferries, buses, subways and trains, the system is so reliable that more than half of NYC households do not own a car. "It's incredible that NYC has the infrastructure for the amount of people who commute into the city," says resident Jenny Catherall.

To accommodate the popular use of mass transit, NYC is one of just a few U.S. cities to provide morning rush-hour service, in which the subways' frequency is less than 10 minutes. "I actually enjoy my morning commute somewhat. It allows me to relax a little, as opposed to being irritated while driving to work," Jenny says.

San Francisco
Connecting riders to a wide variety of Bay Area localities, the Bay Area Rapid Transit is known for its impressive travel speeds and reliability. Serving four counties and spanning 104 miles, BART averages367,591 riders per day on weekdays, including students, working commuters and visitors eager to experience city life, gorgeous beaches and the vibrant East Bay area.

With San Francisco's growing population of more than 800,000, BART also caters to commuters within the city. "With BART, you can easily go from downtown to just about any part of the city," says recent San Francisco State University graduate Matt McEwan. In addition to BART, San Francisco's bus service and the citywide light rail and subway system also help relieve reliance on cars and parking shortage frustrations.

Washington, D.C.
Like New York, D.C.'s city center draws workers from surrounding suburban areas, including two neighboring states: Maryland and Virginia. D.C.'s notorious rush-hour traffic makes a well-tuned, affordable and wide-ranging mass transit system essential.

Government contractor Ticona Willis confirms these sentiments. "What I like most about D.C.'s mass transit system is the convenience of not having to deal with traffic during rush hour," she says. To accommodate travel into the D.C. area and the metro center, the city's public transportation system includes a regional subway system, a regional bus service and several local bus systems. Ticona says D.C.'s public transit isn't perfect -- she'd like to see cheaper fares and newer subway cars with better temperature control -- but the current system makes D.C. employment a viable option for suburbanites.

While most subway systems run underground, Chicago's subway system, the "L," often runs above ground, offering bouts of fresh air and architectural eye candy for its riders.

The second-largest transportation system in the U.S., the Chicago Transit Authority includes buses, rapid transit (the "L") and commuter trains. Via bus or the "L," commuters and visitors can reach 40 of the city's suburbs and travel swiftly throughout Chicago proper. "The 'L' is better to take during commuting hours, since the bus often gets caught in traffic," says Loyola Medical School research assistant Kate Lansu.

Though Chicago roads currently provide some bus-only lanes, city leaders have been pushing for development of a higher-quality bus service, such as a Bus Rapid Transit system, which would reduce car lanes on the road, add more bus lanes and signal priority for buses at key intersections.

Consisting of an above-ground and underground light-rail system, bus service and a downtown monorail, Seattle's innovative and reliable mass transit systems are the preferred mode of transportation for many of the city's residents. "I live in the city, so there's really no need for a car -- mass transit is so easy here," says resident and receptionist Stephanie Fischer.

Unique to the Emerald City, the Seattle Center Monorail system links the downtown area to Seattle Center, the city's entertainment hub, and offers a fun riding experience. "I always take my family and friends to ride it when they're visiting," Stephanie says.

Also convenient for both residents and visitors, Seattle's light-rail system, Central Link, runs from the downtown area to the airport. The city is currently working on extending this line for another 3.15 miles, connecting the city's downtown area to the University of Washington campus.

Los Angeles
Serving more than a million commuters on weekdays, Los Angeles' mass transit system, the Metro, consists of bus and rail services. With a service area of about 1,500 miles, about 6 percent of Los Angelescommuters ride the bus, and about 300,000 commuters ride the Metro's rail and subways every weekday. Though Los Angeles is notorious for gridlocked freeway traffic, its bus and subway services are available in several areas throughout Los Angeles County (the largest county in the country), offering commuters express rush-hour service to accommodate its large ridership.

The Metro Rail currently offers services for five lines, and the city is working on a sixth line, the Expo line, planned to enter service in late 2012. Though the Metro's rail system serves several cities in Los Angeles County, ranging from Long Beach to Pasadena, Metro does not yet offer rail services to much of the Los Angeles Westside, an intensely developed residential and commercial community. The upcoming Expo line is expected to address this issue.

Known to locals as "The T," the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority operates most of the city's subway, bus, commuter rail and ferry systems, connecting the city's bustling neighborhoods and college campuses. "No matter what part of the city you are in, you are within easy access to a bus or train, or both," says graduate student Anna Levy.

Unique to Boston's subway and bus system is the Charlie Card, a stored-value card used for paying subway or bus fare. The MBTA offers a discount for using the Charlie Card: Subway fare is $2 without the card and $1.70 with the card, per ride.

Though the MBTA's subway system already has three rapid transit lines -- the Red, Orange and Blue lines, and two light-rail lines -- the Green Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line -- the MBTA plans to add new stations to these lines as well as extend them. "Overall, the transit system connects the different parts of the city, as well as Cambridge, very cohesively," Anna concludes.

Minneapolis' Metro Transit system features both bus and light-rail services, but what makes this city's transit system stand out is its winter accommodations. "In the winter, some bus stations are indoors, feature heat lamps and have displays for estimated bus arrival times," says rider and Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison.

To accommodate rush-hour commuters, bus services use the carpool lane in the mornings and evenings. "The bus is very fast and direct," Jan says. "The express bus service downtown is faster than driving a car."

Aside from its superb bus services, Minneapolis also offers a light-rail system that currently runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Northwest suburbs. Proposals have been made to expand the light-rail system to the Southwest, which would provide service to five more suburban communities.

San Diego
One of the few U.S. cities to provide trolley service more functional than a tourist attraction, San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System operates three light-rail lines and three bus services.

Though known as "The Trolley," this service is actually a light-rail system that runs on four different lines and has a ridership of more than 100,000 users each weekday. For those who work in the coastal and inland areas of San Diego, The Trolley can be the most convenient form of transportation. Currently the fifth most-ridden light-rail system, The Trolley is also the eighth-oldest light-rail system in the U.S.

San Diego's bus system is divided into three services: commuter and express, urban and local, and rural. Connecting its surrounding suburbs to the San Diego downtown area, buses offer express services during commuting hours and link up to the downtown's Trolley system. Additionally, San Diego is part of Southern California's Metrolink commuter rail service, connecting to most of the larger Southern California counties.

Operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh's mass transit system consists of bus services, a light-rail system and two inclined-plane railroads. With about 6 percent of its workforcecommuting by means of mass transit, Pittsburgh ranked number 24 on the U.S. Census Bureau's list of public transit usage.

PAT operates about 800 buses, which run on both standard and rapid transit routes. Additionally, all the light rail and busway stations outside the downtown area connect to shuttles, transferring riders to the surrounding neighborhoods. PAT's buses currently run along three routes, connecting suburbs in Allegheny County to downtown Pittsburgh, from the Amtrak station to the eastern suburbs, and one line serving just the southern suburbs.

PAT's light-rail network, locally known as "The T," is a 25-mile system with four lines, running south from downtown Pittsburgh to the suburbs. PAT unveiled its new North Shore Connector Line, which added 1.2 miles of track north of downtown, on March 25. The line runs under the Allegheny River and connects Pittsburgh's northern suburbs to the downtown area as well as to the southern suburbs.