Category Archives: Uncategorized

A good driver day

Southbound 48, 2 PM: The man behind the wheel turned out to be the same man a longtime family friend brought to my nuptials, lo, those many (oh, was it only two?) years ago. I don’t actually know him, and until that ride, I had no idea he was a bus driver.

Tandy, props for your good taste in dates. How often does a bus chick get the chance to say to a driver, “Hey, I think you were a guest at my wedding!”

Eastbound 4, 8:30 PM: I rode with Smooth Jazz for the first time in almost a year. (The last time he was my driver, I think I was still busing while pregnant.) On this particular ride, he was dispensing his cool while politely fending off a rather forceful passenger-on-driver bus mack. Can’t say I blame the woman. If it weren’t for my amazingly fabulous Bus Nerd, I’d have a crush on Smooth Jazz.

Drive less, but park more

It looks like New York got its federal grant ($354.5 million–oh, if only!), with a few strings. Here’s how the money is supposed to be used:

• $10.4 million to implement congestion pricing
• $213.6 million for bus facilities and other improvements
• $112.7 million to begin Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• $15.8 million for regional ferry service
• $2 million for research

The funding from the USDOT is conditioned on actions by the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. Congestion pricing must be approved within 90 days of the opening of the next session of the New York State Legislature, allowing congestion pricing to begin no later than March 31, 2009.

(For details, check out Streetsblog’s full post.)

Unfortunately, not all branches of the federal government are working to get folks out of their cars. From today’s New York Times:

This week, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] announced $848 million in grants to help cities discourage people from driving, in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees.

But at the same time, another arm of the federal government seems to be sending a very different message. Congress provides a tax break to many of those same drivers to help them shoulder the costs of taking their cars to work.

Close to 400,000 commuters nationwide — about half of them in the New York City area — take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code that allows them to use up to $215 a month in pre-tax wages to pay for their parking at work, according to executives at corporate benefits firms that specialize in administering the tax break.

Talk about your mixed messages. I’m still waiting for the tax break for bus chicks.

Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road (please!), part II

Congratulations, Shannon!Last night, we left work early to attend Bus Nerd’s Godson Shannon’s graduation from Ingraham (545 + 41+ 346). Thanks to Friday evening traffic, we were running late, so late that we were afraid we were going to miss Shannon’s walk. Fortunately, two young men who rode the 346 with us were also late to the graduation. They used their Sidekick to keep in touch with their graduate, and I used my eavesdropping skills to figure out just how much we had missed. (“She says it’s hella crowded–oh, the principal just gave his speech.”) Thank goodness for modern technology (and teenage texting trife).

Unfortunately, the young men with the Sidekick weren’t the only folks making use of handheld devices. Our 346 driver spiced up the ride by driving one-handed while chatting on his cellie.

Come on, man. If you’re going to go there, at least get a headset.

A good day for Puget Sound transit advocates (especially this one)

On the same day the Secretary of Transportation announced federal approval of the light rail extension to UW (another step on the way to federal funding), I was officially introduced to Car #2, the first of the Link rail cars to arrive in Seattle. (Car #1 was initially sent to New Mexico for speed testing and will be arriving shortly.)

Hey, good lookin'!

Sexy, no?

Richard Eacker, an electrical engineer on the project (and, incidentally, a faithful 255 rider), was kind enough to show me around the brand new maintenance building where it’s being stored.

Richard with Car #2:

Richard and Car #2

Me with Car # 2 (and the edge of Richard’s finger):

Bus Chick and Car #2

I was diggin’ the hard hat and safety goggles.

The auxiliary equipment is on top of the cars, so maintenance is performed from platforms.

Maintenance platform

Richard also gave me a tour of the construction progress.

This is an erection truss, a ridiculously huge contraption that connects the trackway:


I’m sorry I didn’t take notes on how exactly this thing works, but I’m hoping a transit nerd (possibly Richard) will comment and explain in more detail. (Google the term at your own risk.)

Here’s the Tukwila station:

Tukwila station

I never get over the hugeness of this project–both in terms of the amount of energy and brainpower required to make it a reality, and in terms the impact it will have on the future of transportation in our region.

Of course, it won’t have an impact unless we actually use it. Who wants to fight me to be first in line?

Pilgrims on a bus bound for glory

Get on the Bus (source: marks the 10th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite movies, Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus.

For those who haven’t seen the film: It’s about a group of black men who travel (by bus, of course) from Los Angeles to Washington, DC to attend the Million Man March. (Today is also the 11th anniversary of the march.)

It’s no coincidence that Lee chose a bus (the most democratic of vehicles) as his characters’ mode of travel. The men come from varied backgrounds, circumstances, and stages of life but share in common a desire to attend the march, and, consequently, their time on the bus. Over the course of the three-day ride, they discuss their beliefs, prejudices, hopes, fears, and histories. They discuss the problems facing the black community and their differing views about how to fix them. They develop friendships and rivalries.

No one mentions public transit. :)

To commemorate the film’s anniversary, I watched it again and found it just as moving and (sadly) relevant as I did the first time. It was definitely worth the bus trip (speaking of getting on the bus) to Scarecrow, including the return trip on the Husky Downer Express.

A side note: In real life, Rosa Parks (also known as my all-time favorite bus chick) was one of the speakers at the Million Man March.

Ah ha, hush that fuss

The automotive industry is the largest advertiser in the world. Auto makers spend billions upon billions of dollars to convince us that cars (and trucks) are the keys to happiness, freedom, success, and an unlimited supply of hot chicks. Apparently, they’re also responsible for the Civil Rights Movement.

Or something.

You see, GM is now using Rosa Parks in an ad for a Chevy pick-up. Seth Stevenson reviewed the ad for Slate.

The spot: Singer John Mellencamp leans on the fender of a Chevy pickup, strumming an acoustic guitar. He sings, among other things, “This is our country.” Meanwhile, a montage of American moments flies by: Rosa Parks on a bus. Martin Luther King preaching to a crowd. Soldiers in Vietnam. Richard Nixon waving from his helicopter. And then modern moments: New Orleans buried by Katrina floodwaters. The two towers of light commemorating 9/11. As a big, shiny pickup rolls through an open field of wheat and then slows to a carefully posed stop, the off-screen announcer says, “This is our country. This is our truck. The all-new Chevy Silverado.”

This ad makes me–and, judging by my e-mail, some of you–very angry. It’s not OK to use images of Rosa Parks, MLK, the Vietnam War, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11 to sell pickup trucks. It’s wrong. These images demand a little reverence and quiet contemplation. They are not meant to be backed with a crappy music track and then mushed together in a glib swirl of emotion tied to a product launch. Please, Chevy, have a modicum of shame next time.


Rosa Parks Bus (source: Montgomery Transit)


I say, if you’re going to exploit the image of a woman who is no longer alive to defend herself, at least have the decency to do it in an ad for the vehicle she is associated with. It was, after all, a GM bus she was riding on the day of her historic arrest.

Ecouter clandestinement

Because I am shy, nosy, and able to simultaneously process information from multiple sources, I am well-suited to one of my favorite bus-riding pastimes: eavesdropping. I am an expert eavesdropper. In fact, I am the Queen of Eavesdroppers. That is, as long as everyone I’m eavesdropping on is speaking English.

Despite my early plans to become a polyglot, the only foreign language I can speak well enough to claim (thanks to a few childhood years in Morocco and many years of study in the States) is French. Unfortunately, though I am able to carry on reasonable conversations, my French eavesdropping skills are pretty poor–so poor, in fact, that when I was in Paris last year, I was constantly frustrated by my inability to immerse myself in my fellow Metro riders’ business.

Metro station
The Luxembourg Metro/RER station in Paris, where I first failed at French eavesdropping

This morning, as luck would have it, I was presented with an unexpected chance to practice my international listening skills. Two men sitting across from me on the 545 were having a full-on French conversation, and (oh, happy bus ride!) I understood it. Funny how that language can make an otherwise uninteresting exchange about office moves and South Lake Union condo purchases sound so sophisticated and fabulous.

Oh yeah–while I was disembarking, I caught the beginning of a more typical 545 conversation:

Hipster-geek 1: “Hey man. How’s it goin’?”
Hipster geek 2: “Other than the fact that my web server crapped out compiling ASP this morning, life is good.”