The Prank Letters of S. William Kost

Over the last ten years, I have written dozens of joke letters, sometimes under pseudonyms, to companies large and small in America and around the world. Many of these companies have written back.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Tri-Met 3/31/98

S. William Kost
P.O. Box 598
Clackamas, OR 97015

March 31, 1998

Attn: Tom Walsh
4012 SE 17th Ave.
Portland, OR 97202

Dear Mr. Walsh,

Thank you for your most recent letter and special all-day tickets. I've been riding Tri-Met for years now, so technically I'm not a new rider; but the tickets came in handy nonetheless.

There have been a few things I've wondered about for awhile, and I thought you might be able to help me figure them out. I've organized my inquiries and handily placed them below:

1. Why does all of the MAX train's power temporarily shut off as it approaches the Lloyd Center Station (inbound)? It doesn't seem to matter which car I'm in. It's a bit freaky, to say the least.

2. What is the reason for printing "This Side Up" on the front of the bus pass? I mean, are people who read the passes unable to read printing that is slightly tilted, or even upside-down? And, if that's the case, how are these people able to read the words "THIS SIDE UP" unless it's already right side up?

3. Your placards ask riders to write Tri-Met if an operator went "the extra mile" for them. Personally, if I've rung the bell, and you go an extra mile past my stop (especially on MAX!), my letter to you is not going to be as complimentary as this one. Are you actually encouraging angry mail?
I hope you can shed some light on my questions soon. I'm puzzled! Until then, keep up the good work (even in the face of bridge closures)! Please send an XL T-shirt or a pen.

I've got a ticket to ri-i-ide,

S. William Kost

P.S. Are you related to rock legend Joe Walsh?

Dear Mr. Kost:

I'm responding to your letter and your questions about Tri-Met's system at the request of Mr. Tom Walsh.

1) Why is MAX power temporarily shut off as it approaches Lloyd Center Station?

The electrical overhead contact system that is the source of power for MAX is segmented in order to eliminate the possibility of a total electrical shutdown of service in an emergency situation. (There are substations located every mile that generate and distribute 750V of current.) Sparks are occasionally produced at the location of this segmented cable when the MAX car's "pantograph" passes through it. (The pantograph is the connection assemble that is the intermediary between the overhead wiring and the train.) In order to eliminate this possibility, we sometimes ask the rail operator to coast when crossing one of these locations. The train is powered immediately after crossing the segmented line.

2) Why are passes imprinted with "This Side Up?"

This was done at the request of our bus drivers as a reminder to customers to hold the pass so it's easily seen by the driver when the customer boards. Often in the past customers displayed the pass so that the designation was completely covered and unreadable for the bus driver. The "This Side Up" message has helped this situation for our drivers.

3) Why do buses and MAX go so far past the stop?

When in service, MAX stops at the station. The only time a train goes past a station is because of an emergency or if it is not in service. Buses sometimes stop past the stop for safety reasons or because the driver didn't see a customer waiting for the bus. If the bell is rung too late, it causes the driver to either eliminate stopping for safety reasons, or stop the bus further down the block—past the stop.

You asked for a T-shirt and a pen. I regret that we don't keep T-shirts or pens in stock to give to customers. Thank you for taking the time to write and for riding Tri-Met.

Virginia Woods
Customer Satisfaction Representatives


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