Category Archives: media

Transportation in the news

• There’s a new, nationwide portal for transit applications. MyBus and OneBusAway are already in there. (Source: Mission-Sustainable)

• Transit riders and privacy groups are raising concerns about the way Orca collects and stores users’ travel data. They’re chatting about it over at STB.

• Link’s Seatac station is up and running. I missed the big ribbon-cutting (hey, it was at 8-something on Saturday morning!), and I’m not headed out of town anytime soon, but I’ll probably ride down there for the heck of it in a day or two. Anyone already been?

Something in the air

The Sightline Institute has a new parenting series on its Daily Score blog. Rather than simply discussing personal parenting choices, the series, Sustainababy: Growing up Green, examines parenthood “through the lens of sustainability policy.” Not to discount the power of personal choices (“Be the change you want to see” is, after all, my personal motto), but I’m really glad to see this. Certainly, policy has a huge impact on children’s health–arguably much greater than the individual decisions parents make.

The first entry, “Breathing for Two,” discusses air quality and its effects on unborn babies.

Early in my pregnancy I developed a bloodhound’s sense of smell: even the faintest of odors overwhelmed me. It’s a common phenomenon during the first trimester of pregnancy, yet my new nasal superpower took me by surprise–and forced me into an unwelcome awareness of the pollution that surrounds all of us. Car and truck exhaust, to my unusually acute nose, was pure poison. It made me recoil, hold my breath, gag, choke. My new super-nose could detect the smell all over the place–waiting at the bus stop in my quiet Seattle neighborhood, wafting through 5th floor downtown office windows, even at the park and in my own backyard. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that the air I breathe really stinks.

It’s definitely worth it to read the entire post–and the others in the series. The folks at Sightline want feedback and ideas from parents (and interested nonparents) around the region, so check it out–and chime in.

Transportation safety, part V

I know I’m late, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the bus safety issue everyone’s been buzzing about for the last couple of days. According to this article, “incidents” (which can range from theft to disruptive behavior to actual fights between passengers) reported by Metro drivers have doubled in the last ten years and have risen faster than ridership.

Despite the article’s rather provocative introduction, its basic conclusion is that KC Metro buses are extremely safe. There were fewer than five incidents per million rides in 2008, and less than half of those involved violence. Believe me, driving a car is a lot more likely to result in an injury (or, for that matter, a death) than riding the bus. I digress.

Just for fun, here’s the list* of routes with the most driver-reported incidents:

174 (ahem): 60
7: 52
358 (a-hem!): 34
106: 21
36: 18
120: 16
150: 15
14: 15
18: 11
2: 11

I’ve ridden all of these routes–a few of them I ride regularly–and yes, they have more than their fair share of trife. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt unsafe on a bus in Seattle.** Annoyed? Frequently. Bothered? Sometimes. Harassed? On occasion. Unsafe? Not even on the 174.

* I’m surprised there weren’t more trolleys on the list (3 and 4 are conspicuously absent). No disrespect, but those things are slow as all get-out, usually crowded, and hot in the summer.

** OK, except for that time on the 2 when I was in 4th grade.

Car-free living: not just for city folk

VAUBAN, Germany — Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here.

(Source: NYT, via Bus Nerd)

Apparently, plans are in the works for something similar in the Bay Area called Quarry Village.

Yes, please.

Everybody really is doing it

Despite low gas prices and fewer commuters (no job = no commute), transit ridership continues to rise. In fact, according to the American Public Transportation Association, ridership in 2008 was 4% higher than in 2007 (the highest it’s been in 52 years), while vehicle miles traveled declined by almost the same amount. Transit geeks aren’t the only folks taking note, either. The issue is the top headline on MSNBC today.

Now if only our funding priorities (ahem) would reflect our behavior.

More on the stimulus and transit

Tonight on PBS NOW:

President Obama’s stimulus money is nearly out the door and on its way to the states, but will it be spent in the way it is intended? One alarming example: Mass transit. Cities and states, strapped for money, are cutting back on mass transit even as it becomes more popular with Americans. Meanwhile, President Obama is calling for increased mass transit as a necessary step toward energy independence. Will the government’s investment dramatically revitalize our national travel infrastructure, or will states spend the money according to ‘business as usual’?

The show airs on KCTS at 8:30 PM.

Update: You can watch the show online here.

Not that kind of transit stimulus

Friend and fellow bus chick, Erin (who also happens to be the girlfriend of Bus Nerd’s cousin), hipped me to this insanity:

A Metro driver was arrested on his route Wednesday morning for allegedly dealing rock cocaine – something King County sheriff’s deputies said he’d been doing on his No. 42 route for several weeks.

The driver, 54, was arrested shortly before noon near South Leo Street and Beacon Avenue South.

“Metro transit police conducted several undercover buys from the driver, including immediately prior to today’s arrest,” sheriff’s spokesman John Urquhart said. “Not all of the buys occurred from Metro busses.”

And again, “If you’re going to sell dope…”

Guess our new drug czar has his work cut out for him.

The transit paradox: more riders, less service

An excellent (if depressing) article in the NYT:

Transit systems across the country are raising fares and cutting service even when demand is up with record numbers of riders last year, many of whom fled $4-a-gallon gas prices and stop-and-go traffic for seats on buses and trains.


Their problem is that fare-box revenue accounts for only a fifth to a half of the operating revenue of most transit systems — and the sputtering economy has eroded the state and local tax collections that the systems depend on to keep running. “We’ve termed it the ‘transit paradox,’ ” said Clarence W. Marsella, general manager of Denver’s system, which is raising fares and cutting service to make up for the steep drop in local sales tax.

The billions of dollars that Congress plans to spend on mass transit as part of the stimulus bill will also do little to help these systems with their current problems. That is because the new federal money — $12 billion was included in the version passed last week by the House, while the Senate originally proposed less — is devoted to big capital projects, like buying train cars and buses and building or repairing tracks and stations. Money that some lawmakers had proposed to help transit systems pay operating costs, and avoid layoffs and service cuts, was not included in the latest version.

I’m not mad about building train stations and buying buses (in fact, I take issue with the imbalance between road and transit projects in the stimulus bill), but I’m very, very concerned about the ability of the nation’s transit agencies (specifically, KC Metro) to continue to meet the rising demand for transit. After all,

“They’re going to make the economy worse if they cut the bus,” Ms. Nacoste said. “There’s going to be unemployment, people running out of money. What are we going to do?”

The entire article is only a couple of pages (short by NYT standards) and worth the read.

Transportation in the news

From Salon: “Who Says Americans Won’t Ride Mass Transit?”

The rise in mass transit ridership should be great news. Not since the OPEC oil embargo and energy crisis in the ’70s have famously car-centric Americans been so eager to shell out for a bus fare or a train ticket and leave the polluter in the driveway. Automobile transportation is one of the largest chunks of the country’s carbon footprint, so the more that Americans opt for trains and buses, the more that footprint could shrink.

But the news isn’t all that sunny. In fact, the mini-exodus from driving has exposed significant cracks in the country’s mass transit systems, which are struggling to accommodate new riders. Having spent decades forsaking the bus and the train for the convenience and privacy of cars, Americans are now finding that the buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains that they left behind are strapped for cash, if they still exist at all.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about…

• A car-free city in the Persian Gulf:

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Saturday for Masdar City, a nearly self-contained mini-municipality designed for up to 50,000 people rising from the desert next to Abu Dhabi’s international airport and intended as a hub for academic and corporate research on nonpolluting energy technologies.

The 2.3-square-mile community, set behind walls to divert hot desert winds and airport noise, will be car free, according to the design by Foster + Partners, the London firm that has become a leading practitioner of energy-saving architecture.

(Source: New York Times, via Bus Nerd)

• Even higher congestion charges in London:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone will triple the city’s daily congestion charge to 25 pounds ($49) for the most-polluting cars and sport utility vehicles, his latest plan to cut carbon emissions by boosting driving costs.

Owners of vehicles that emit more than 225 grams (0.5 pounds) of carbon dioxide a kilometer — the so-called ‘G band’ rating used for calculating U.K. vehicle tax — will pay the increased fee to enter central London’s congestion zone starting Oct. 27. The charge will be waived for owners of the least- polluting vehicles, Livingstone said at a news conference today.

(Source: Bloomberg News, via World Carfree Network)