Category Archives: seattle stuff

Poetry on Buses (and trains), 2016

poetry on buses 2016

The folks at Poetry on Buses have announced their 2016 theme: “Your Body of Water.” Last year’s theme, “Writing Home,” was provocative — so much so that I thought it might actually inspire me to write a poem (it didn’t) — but props to the new poet planner, Jourdan Keith, for selecting this one. Wow.

“Your Body of Water” is a poetic exploration of our connections to water and how it is protected and cared for by Seattle Public Utilities and King County.

We are all bodies of water, connected to one another through the water web. Your body of water is connected to streams, rivers, lakes, tides, waterfalls, toilets and faucets, to present homes, childhood homes and ancestral ones by memory, by the water cycle, by stories. Come, tell your story through poetry.

Yes, please.

Respect to those who came before, part V (Or, Why we need Indigenous People’s Day)

Last Thursday, I heard a story on my local public radio station about the “remaking” of Seattle. The host interviewed geology writer David Williams about his book, which details a series of landscape-transforming projects — razing hills, filling in tide flats, and cutting a canal between two lakes — undertaken by white settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Williams, Seattle’s forefathers chose the site for their city based on its useful deep water port, but they found the actual landscape — hilly, and covered with rivers and trees — to be unworkable for their purposes. So, they decided to change it.

During the interview, Mr. Williams described these settlers’ actions as “bold,” “naïve,” and “ambitious.” He even called them insecure, based on his belief that early Seattleites wanted their city to be considered “world class” but weren’t sure it quite measured up.

I paid close attention to Williams’s version of the story, because, only a few weeks earlier, I had seen the documentary Princess Angeline at an event at the Duwamish Longhouse. The film addresses these very same projects, but from the perspective of the Duwamish people, who were the original inhabitants of the land that became Seattle. Far from improving the “habitability” of their homeland, the landscape-altering projects completely destroyed the Duwamish way of life.

Canoe

But there was not a single mention of the Duwamish people — by Mr. Williams or by the host — in the entire seven-minute interview. There was no talk of violence, greed, or racism, despite the fact that the rivers the Duwamish had used for sustenance and travel for thousands of years were either filled with dirt from the razed hills or poisoned by all of the rapid “progress.” Instead, the interview encouraged listeners to imagine brave, industrious settlers taming an empty (and troublesome) landscape.

This kind of revisionist history, this kind of erasure, happens again and again in the ways we talk about our city — and our country. It reinforces the myth that the United States was founded by pilgrims and pioneers who discovered an empty, resource-rich land and built an exceptional nation. We rarely trouble ourselves with the inconvenient fact that the land was already inhabited when these adventurous, freedom-loving pioneers arrived. Nor do we consider that their descendants continue to live among us.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk by one of my favorite writers, Isabel Wilkerson. Ms. Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns, a history — viewed through three first-person accounts — of the Great Migration of former slaves from the American south to northern cities. The Warmth of Other Suns is easily the greatest work of nonfiction I have ever read, and Wilkerson is an extremely thoughtful and sensitive scholar and writer, attuned to the stories of people who are discounted and marginalized.

And yet, at the end of her talk, she emphasized that each of us in the audience, by virtue of the fact that we were in Seattle, were the descendants of migrants, people who had come from somewhere else in search of a better life. She was doing so to illustrate the parallels between the participants in the Great Migration and immigrants who came from other lands. But her statement involved a basic assumption: that no one in the audience (and by extension, no one in the city) was a descendant of the people who are native to this region.

When we receive — and repeat — these kids of messages, we are reinforcing the idea that Native people either never existed or are a people of the past. It is easier to believe this than to face the truth. But we must face it. We must learn as much as we can about what happened, what was lost, and how we can forge a more just path forward.

Duwamish people in canoes on the Duwamish River

So I am beyond pleased that we have decided as a city to honor, celebrate, and especially, to hear the people whose land we now occupy.

Happy holiday, everyone. See you at the celebration?

Multimodal Monday: Greenway riders

Until recently, I’ve have a complicated relationship with neighborhood greenways. Though I have always been supportive of the concept of making streets safer (and more comfortable) for cyclists and pedestrians, I’ve also been skeptical that minor changes to neighborhood streets* would make much of a difference.

Then they added a greenway to our neighborhood. OK, I haven’t actually ridden on it yet, but I have walked behind my budding bicyclists on a number of excursions. Folks, I’m a believer.

Riding on the greenway

Safe, marked, crossings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLUS…

Greenway (7)

speed control (with speed humps and traffic circles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLUS…

Stop signs at intersections

stop signs at intersections,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EQUALS…

Greenway (5)

happy riders!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our neighborhood greenway just happens to provide an almost door-to-door connection between our home and our church, so we will be using it fairly regularly.

The little people still ride on the sidewalk (and will for the foreseeable future), but the changes still made a huge difference in their safety and comfort. One example: At all the intersections where there are four-way stops, we allow them to ride across the street instead of getting off their bikes and walking, which increases the fun factor and decreases the tedium by a lot.

When they are old enough, I would absolutely feel comfortable letting them ride in the street. And if I ever make good on my promise to get a real** bike, I will use the greenway (no, really) for kid-free neighborhood trips. While walking will always be my preferred mode of transportation, sometimes you just need to get there already.

***
*As opposed to building more sidewalks and adding protected bike lanes to major streets

**The one I have now is a folding bike I won at a transportation fair in 2007. I have ridden it less than a dozen times.

Hear my bus a comin’

If you’ve visited this blog more than a few times, you might already know that I am obsessed with (among many other things) bus shelters, art, and Seattle history. So, I was pretty excited to attend the unveiling of the Jimi Hendrix-themed bus shelter–at the northbound 48 stop at 23rd & Massachusetts–last November. (Yes, November. I’m still catching up, OK?) Unfortunately, thanks to a prolonged illness (and the whole new person in our family thing), I didn’t make the big event. The good news is, there’s a video.

Since the shelter opened, I have zoomed past it on the 48 dozens of times, but I have never had occasion to wait there. That is, until last Friday.

Fellow bus chicks, behold:

Hendrix shelter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix park 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix park 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix shelter 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimi Hendrix Park is just up the hill from the shelter and is currently undergoing a major transformation. The Northwest African American Museum is on the same grounds. Seattle folks: Might be time to hop on Metro’s Heavyweight and pay all three a visit.

Rider for life

OBC, n: Original bus chick. A person who has actively chosen transit over other forms of transportation for several decades; an extremely experienced transit rider.

Beulah's bus stop

A couple of years ago, King County Metro installed a bus shelter memorializing Beulah Dyer, a lifelong Seattle transit rider who passed away in 2011, at the age of 90. Born in Ballard in 1921, Mrs. Dyer started riding transit at a very young age. She never stopped.

She never tried to get a driver’s license, believing the bus was “always better.”

Dyer took up to six bus trips a day – to shop, visit with friends, attend classes, and volunteer – and was known as a “walking bus schedule.” Friends report that she could tell you, without having to look it up, which bus to take to any destination between Des Moines and Everett, and when you needed to be at the bus stop.

She raised her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to be bus riders. Every story she told seemed to begin with what bus she caught and how long it took her to get there, and ended with the buses she rode to get home.

Talk about an OBC! Young (and middle-aged) bus chicks, bow down.

On Tuesday, I finally had a chance to see Beulah Dyer’s bus shelter in person.

Bus stop memorial

 

 

 

 

 

Bus stop memorial - side view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beulah plus one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beulah solo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beulah with a bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting Mrs. Dyer’s stomping grounds and seeing the photos on the shelter, I wanted to know more about her: what her hobbies were, the hardships and triumphs she experienced, her favorite color and food. I searched the Internet but was only able to find this 2001 news story about her 80th birthday celebration, which was held on the 65.

Metro Transit and Dyer’s family threw a surprise 80th birthday party on the Route 65 bus. The guests included King County Executive Ron Sims and Metro General Manager Rick Walsh.

She guessed something was happening when her son, sister, brother, sister-in-law and two adult granddaughters showed up at her bus stop when she was leaving University Village.

“I don’t know what you’re up to but it had better not be a stripper,” she said.

Ten blocks before her stop, Sims led a parade of celebrants onto the articulated bus. Her favorite driver, Gregory Nash, carried the cake.

Metro leaders learned about Dyer’s loyalty when her granddaughter, Jahna Dyer, wrote a letter to thank them for taking such good care of her grandmother.

Sims and Walsh presented Dyer with flowers, a certificate, Metro commuter mug, umbrella and an insulated lunch bag. Metro’s uniform supplier threw in a green Metro cardigan sweater.

If I ride the bus for 40 more years, can I get a Metro cardigan? Seriously. I have been trying to figure out how to get my hands on one of those for at least a decade. And just to put it out there in the universe, I won’t be mad if there’s a stripper involved. Kidding! (Sort of.)

But I digress.

My grandma moved to Seattle in the early 1930s. Though her experiences—as a black woman living in the Central Area–were certainly significantly different than Mrs. Dyer’s, the two women shared in common a love of buses. My father, who was born in 1939, spent his childhood riding streetcars and trolley buses in this town and has many stories of the velvety seats, the sounds the vehicles made, and how the drivers would help his mother on and off when he and his siblings were small.

When I was growing up, I remember wondering why my grandma always insisted on walking and busing to get around, even when others were willing—would, in fact, have preferred—to give her a ride. Now, I am in her shoes: trying to explain that yes, I really do want to take the bus, and no, it’s not (usually) a hardship or an inconvenience; it is part of who I am.

If I am given the gift of long life, I hope it will remain so.

Thanks for the ride

It is hard to put into words how much our bus family appreciates the hard-working men and women who get us where we’re going safely, day after day. Our prayers are with Mr. Deloy Dupuis, the 64 year-old 27 driver who was shot in the face while doing his job yesterday morning. We also pray for the family of the shooter, Martin Duckworth, who was killed by police shortly after the incident—and for an end to the senseless gun violence that plagues our nation.

WTF, Olympia?! (or, Bye-bye buses)

UPDATE, 7/17/13: The rally has been rescheduled to July 27th. The original date conflicted with the National Day of Action for Trayvon Martin. For more information about both rallies, visit the STRU Facebook page. See you on the 20th and the 27th?

No bus cuts (photo credit: Transportation Riders United)
This session, the Washington State Legislature failed (again!) to authorize a funding source for transit, and now Metro is going to cut service by 17%. If you ride the bus in King County, it is almost guaranteed that you will be affected.

On Saturday, July 20th, the Seattle Transit Riders Union will host a rally to ask state legislators, “WTF?!” or, “WHERE’S THE FUNDING?” From the STRU site:

It’s time to get organized. As a first step, TRU and allies are organizing a rally and demonstration for Saturday, July 20 to ask the resounding question, “WTF, Olympia?” (This, as we all know, stands for Where’s The Funding, Olympia?) But we know transit riders aren’t the only ones who got the short end of the stick. We are asking all individuals and organizations who are fed up with these misleaders in Olympia to step forward.

Do you have a grievance against the State Legislature? Bring it along! We’ll be collecting a busload of grievances to send to certain state legislators. Together our combined voices will echo in the halls of power.

What? A rally and demonstration to express our dissatisfaction with our State Legislature
When? Saturday, July 20, 12:00 pm
Where? City Hall Park, 450 3rd Avenue (south side of King County Courthouse)
Who? Everyone with a grievance
Why? It’s time to get organized!

The Bus Fam will be there. Hope to see you.

Books + buses = goodness

Coolest stickers ever

Coolest stickers ever

Almost exactly a year ago, I started a job at a nonprofit I’ve admired for many years. I believe deeply in the organization’s mission and enjoy my work a great deal, but I almost never write about it here. This is because, up until July of 2011, my transit “advocacy” (such as it was) was completely independent of any organization and influenced only by my own opinions and experiences. I’ve never been paid to write my blog (or, for that matter, for any talks, panels, or other appearances related to it), and I’ve never accepted advertising on my site.

Now, for the first time, I’m affiliated with an organization that works on issues I write about. I don’t want the opinions I express outside of work to reflect on (or be confused with) those of my organization. And, I don’t want my personal musings to be motivated by any kind of work-related interest. So, I’ve held myself to a single, fairly simple rule: Don’t blog about work stuff, and don’t talk about my blog at work.

But folks, today I’m going to break my self-imposed rule, because there’s a project I’ve been working on at my day job that is just too cool not to write about, and I think you should sign up and participate and tell all of your friends to do the same. Fellow rider/readers, today marks the launch of the coolest book club in the history of humankind, Books on the Bus.

We are excited to announce Books on the Bus, a collaboration among Transportation Choices and King County Metro, King County Library System, Richard Hugo House, and Pacific Northwest Booksellers.

The Books on the Bus concept is simple: It’s a book club for transit riders. Here’s how it will work.

Every quarter, we will select a book for participants to read on their bus rides. (In the spirit of community, we will make an effort to select books written by local authors or that take place in the Pacific Northwest.) Our current selection is Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices. Hotel Angeline was written live on stage by 36 of Pacific Northwest’s most interesting writers. Half of the proceeds from sales of the novel go to support local literacy nonprofits–this year, Powerful Schools and 826 Seattle.

At the end of the three-month reading period, we will host an event to celebrate and discuss the book. Then, we will repeat the process with a different book.

Though the final event will certainly provide plenty of stimulating book talk, it is during the reading period where the “magic” of Books on the Bus will happen. The magic maker, of course, is the bus.

Buses are perfect places to, as our friends at King County Library say, “take time to read.” Public transit allows you to use your travel time as you please, and for many people, daily commutes are the only times they find to read for pleasure.

But public transit also provides opportunities for interaction. Buses create spontaneous, mobile, and very diverse communities–all over the county, all day long. Buses can certainly lead to lasting relationships, but perhaps more meaningful, and certainly more common, are the incidental interactions: the good-morning nods, sympathetic smiles, and relinquished seats–the history lessons, sports debates, and occasional flirtations–that add richness and texture to every bus rider’s life.

It is these incidental interactions that we hope Books on the Bus will provoke and strengthen. We want buses to be places where people in King County “take time to read,” but also where they connect and communicate.

We hope you’ll sign up for Books on the Bus and make Hotel Angeline your summer ride read!

With so many service cuts (actual and looming) and no stable revenue sources on the horizon, I am grateful for this small bright spot in my bus life.

September service changes, round II

Yesterday, KC Metro revised its proposals for the September service restructure.

Metro is inviting public comment on the newly revised September service proposals during a second round of public review this month. Six open houses, 14 information tables, and more than a dozen presentations have been scheduled in neighborhoods that would see the most changes under these proposals. Please check our online calendar for a list of these events.

Open Houses (all 6-8 p.m., except as noted below)

Monday, Feb. 13 – Ballard High School
Wednesday, Feb. 15 – Madison Middle School, West Seattle
Thursday, Feb. 16 – Chief Sealth High School, Delridge/White Center
Tuesday, Feb. 21 – Union Station, Downtown Seattle (12-2 p.m.)
Thursday, Feb. 23 – Queen Anne Community Center
Monday, Feb. 27 – Washington Middle School, Central Area/Mount Baker

Despite the implication that the restructuring is happening to accommodate RapidRide, it’s much bigger than that. Neighborhoods that have no connection to RapidRide (including mine) will see huge changes, including route eliminations. If you ride any KC Metro routes, you should visit the site and let Metro know how the proposed changes will affect you.