Category Archives: living the life

Two new additions to the bus bag

All the dry, sunny weather we’ve been having of late has me feeling somewhat complacent, as if the rains will never come. I’ve put off buying a new pair of boots, which (after countless seasons of re-heeling and polishing the same favorite pair) has become a necessity. I also haven’t replaced my lost umbrella, unearthed my favorite pair of gloves, or procured enough cool-weather clothes for the kids. But, I am ready with the rain gear*, people.

Fellow bus chicks, behold.

raincoat unfolded

My new raincoat

raincoat folded

My new raincoat!

Given how efficiently packed my bag is, this little number is (or will be) a significant addition. It takes up more space than almost anything else I have in there. But the fact that there exists in the world a professional, versatile, poncho-like garment that will fit over any outfit** and pack up to the size of a medium book without getting anything else in my bag wet is pretty doggone amazing–definitely worth the extra bulk and ounces.

And speaking of amazing…

My friend Lily told me about this ingenious little bag many years ago, and I finally got around to purchasing one (actually, two) in June.

Shopping bag

My handy new shopping bags: one open, one ready to pack

It handles (almost) all of my plastic bag scenarios (I still carry a couple of those as well) and comes in handy for my frequent “on the way” shopping trips–especially now that Seattle’s bag ban is in full effect. Also, it’s tiny (Bus Nerd carries one in his pocket), washable, and adorable.

Look out, world! This fall, I’m taking bus chick preparedness to a whole ‘nother level.

***

*For the past few years, I have owned no outerwear appropriate for rain. It’s a long story I won’t take the time to tell here. Y’all know how I tend to digress.
**Too bad I didn’t know about this back when I still wore a baby pack.

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style (part II)

A lot has happened since my last post. (This is mostly because I wrote it over six weeks ago, but it was a pretty jam-packed end of summer.) For one thing, my baby brother got hitched. (!) And also, we made a trip to the Puyallup Fair.

The last time we did the Puyallup (way back in ’08), Pierce Transit offered a shuttle from Tacoma Dome station right to the fairgrounds. The trip was reasonably painless but did involve two transfers and a bit of a roundabout route. These days—in case you haven’t heard—Pierce Transit is broke. The agency has been forced to cut a lot of vital service, so obviously, the fair shuttle had to go.

So, when we talked about going to the fair again this year, I assumed it was going to be a hassle to get there. I’m no stranger to transit adventures, but I do have my limits, and a day at the fair with two children is exhausting enough without bookending it with a couple of bus marathons.

As it turns out, the fairgrounds is only a little more than half a mile from Puyallup Station. (Thanks for the tip, Priya!) To get there, we caught the 578* from 2nd & Pike and then walked the .6 miles (through a pleasant downtown area, on sidewalks) from the station to the fairgrounds. The 578 isn’t a straight shot (it stops in Federal Way, Sumner, and Auburn), but it mostly sticks to transit centers and the freeway and keeps the stopping and starting to a minimum. Our total travel time was roughly two hours, including walks and waits. The cost: $2 of extra charges on our Orca cards for the 578 ride.

The ride back was even better (and significantly shorter), since the Sounder was running. We walked the same .6 miles back to Puyallup Station and caught the 4:37 PM train (the first northbound train after the morning rush) back downtown. Have I mentioned that I love the Sounder? It delights me. Our total trip time—from the fair exit to our front door—was an hour and a half, and the train ride was easily as fun as anything we did at the fair. And speaking of…

All four of us had a fantastic time. We ate ice cream. We met firefighters. We watched a pirate show. We ran into many friends. We got (henna) tattoos.

And, yes, we even did some driving.

Driving at the fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving at the fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving at the fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Already looking forward to next year…

***
Note that we wanted to catch the Sounder, but there are only two southbound trains in the morning–at 6:10 and 6:50 AM (too early!). The next train south isn’t until 3:15 PM (too late!).

How the Bus Fam celebrates a sunny day

I am not a fair weather bus chick. I love my city (rain, clouds, and late-spring chill included) and my carfree life no matter the season. I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t prefer getting around during time of year when it’s light both early and late and there’s a high probability of sunshine.

During the months between May and October (aka, bus chick high season) life on the ground is lovely–far, far prefarable to life trapped inside an exhaust-spewing metal box stuck in baseball traffic. We walk more than we wait (truth be told, except in extreme weather conditions, I do that year round), worry less about how late we get home (sadly, bedtimes still exist during DST), and spend as much time as we can outdoors.

On a beautiful day, there is plenty of occupy us in our own corner of the city. We are spitting distance from five great parks. We can walk to a city pool. We can take the 27 down to the lake and put our feet in the water. (Almost as often, if we have time, we walk all the way down there–and back.)

But sometimes, much as we love our neighborhood, we get tired of beating the same paths. Sometimes, on a sunny day, we have a hankerin’ for an adventure. Today was one of those times. So, we bus types rose early, threw on some playin-outside-in-the-sunshine gear, and did what we do best.

First, we caught the 27 to 3rd & Yesler, then walked to Pier 50 to catch my beloved Water Taxi.

My city

View from the Water Taxi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busling love, love, loves the retro paint job on “his” Space Needle.

Busling's Space Needle

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Chicklet’s job to find the mountain. Hello, Tahoma!

Hello, Tahoma!

 

On the other side:

On the other side

 

At Seacrest, we caught the (free!) Dart shuttle to the Admiral District.

Shuttle to Admiral

We stopped at the church where my mom’s ashes are buried to bring her some early Mother’s Day flowers.

Flowers for Caroline

Then, we played (and had a snack) at the park near Hiawatha Community Center, which is one of Chicklet’s favorites.

Hiawatha

By the time we caught the shuttle down to Alki, it was still early.

Shuttle back to the beach

Gorgeous but still a little chilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chillin at Alki

Good name

Castle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After plenty of good sand and water time–and after a quick stop at the cafe formerly known as Alki Bakery–we caught the 56 downtown.

And, they're spent!

Despite an extra-long wait at 3rd & Yesler (27 was 18 minutes late, and nothing else was coming), we made it home in time for Busling’s nap.

Perfect, perfect day.

2011: The bus year in review

The bus theme for 2011 was “adjustment.” It was a tough year on several fronts.

1) Busing with babies
I started the year grappling with the awkwardness of traveling with a toddler and a preschooler. The challenges increased as the year progressed (and baby #2 grew heavier, squirmier, and more opinionated). We still got around, of course, but I always felt like I had to choose something to sacrifice: convenience, physical comfort, carrying capacity, or sanity. Usually, it was two of the four.

I’ll admit that problem-solving isn’t my strong suit*, but I’m still convinced that most of the challenges I’m dealing with are inherent to our situation** and are just going to have to be endured. I’m hoping that by this time next year, things will have (mostly) worked themselves out.

2) Bus cuts
What’s a little kid-related bus inconvenience compared to no buses? Those of you who live in King County no doubt remember this summer’s terrifying, “we might have to cut 17% of your service” moment. The County Council passed the (temporary) congestion reduction charge, but the problem hasn’t gone away–for KC Metro, or for transit agencies across the state (CT and PT have already implemented drastic cuts) and the country. If the state doesn’t figure out a real solution to the transit revenue problem ASAP, those barely averted cuts will become a reality.

In the meantime, riders (including this one) are already feeling the pinch. Metro is closing stops, reducing hours, eliminating routes, and taking other steps to save money in anticipation of its bleak revenue future.

3) Bus access
2011 was the Bus Fam’s first full year in our new home, which, though only five blocks from our old (and beloved!) one, sometimes seems worlds away. We still ride all the same routes, but instead of being across the street from three major stops (two of them sheltered), we are blocks away from even the closest. Only one of the nearby stops has a shelter—if you can call it that. (No bench? No windows? No thanks!) Being off the busy thoroughfare has plenty of advantages, but I’m just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were, bus-wise, at the old place.

Further complicating my adjustment to our new bus reality is the fact that the stop where we used to catch the 4 and 48 was recently (and rather unceremoniously) closed by Metro. Now we walk close to half a mile to catch those routes–not so fun when traveling with two small people in the rain. Our bad for basing our home selection on the location of bus stops, I guess.

And speaking of…

Choosing a home based on access to particular routes is also probably not the best plan. Metro’s proposed service revisions include the elimination of the 4 and the drastic reduction/alteration of the 27.

Apparently, “transfer” will be my bus theme for 2012.

***
*I almost always prefer continuing to do what I’ve been doing to actually putting in time (and research!) to figure out a new way to approach a problem. By the time I figure out a good way to handle a situation, there’s a new problem to deal with.
**My situation:
– An almost two-year old who doesn’t do well in a carrier anymore but isn’t quite ready to consistently walk the kinds of distances we cover
– A reasonably mature four-year old with a tendency to dawdle without a firm hand grip + a mom who is way(!) too paranoid about cars to let said four-year old walk near busy streets without holding a hand
– A transit system with few low-floor buses, a difficult stroller policy, and mediocre stops
– Frequently crowded buses
– Frequently rainy weather

On traveling and time, part II

For going on four years now, Chicklet and I have had a standing Friday date with my friend Kelley and her daughter, Evan. (For almost two of those years, sweet Busling has tagged along, too.) When the girls were infants, we met at Green Lake for grown-up walking and talking, but as they grew older and our get-togethers became more about them, we started to branch out. Common meeting places these days: parks (Green Lake included), the Children’s Museum, Central Library, Aquarium, Zoo, and et cetera.

Most of the time, it takes my crew longer to travel to a meeting location than it takes our friends.* This is because our travels include walks and waits, and because it (usually) takes a bus longer to get from one place to another than it takes a car. On the other hand, we never have to spend 10 minutes driving around the GLCC parking lot (or the block) waiting for someone else to leave. And since, as bus people, we pretty much always have to be out of the house on time, we regularly find ourselves at the meeting location ahead of our friends, enjoying a few extra minutes of playtime while we wait.**

The most recent example of this was last Friday, when the five of us decided to meet at the holiday carousel at Westlake. We bus types opted to take the 27 because, well, we always do. Kelley drove. Since (as of July) Kelley and her family live about a mile southeast of us, she took the same route that the 27 takes to get downtown. While I was waiting at the stop with my kids, Kelley and her kid passed by in their car–mere seconds before our chariot pulled up. By the time we boarded, they were a couple of lights ahead.

I’ll let you guess who was waiting for whom at the carousel entrance.

Score one for the bus moms.***

***
*It’s sometimes hard to compare, since, until recently, they were coming from a different part of town.
**This is not to say that the bus is always the preferable way to travel. Early arrival or no, there are times (like, say, when it’s pouring, the bus is late, and it’s past naptime) when even a bus chick envies the comfort (and corralling and carrying capacity) of her friend’s fashionable (and warm!) black mom-mobile.
***Of course, Kelley’s child actually rode the dang thing–twice–while my two stood at the front of the line screaming in terror, but hey. You win some, you lose some.

See also, On traveling and time

Seven uses for a plastic bag

1. Impromptu rain bonnet: Sometimes, after 45 minutes with the flat iron, an umbrella simply isn’t enough insurance.

2. Pants protector: There are those occasions when something should come between you and that bus stop bench.

3. Trash receptacle: You’d be surprised how many stops don’t have cans.

4. Laundry bag: See here for a recent example. (Related use: as a “wet bag” for cloth diapers. Sorry. TMI?)

5. Umbrella cover: No wet umbrellas on the floor means no more lost umbrellas. No wet umbrellas on the seat means no more rain-related bus fouls.

6. Shopping bag: Seasoned bus chicks carry running shopping lists (on paper, on mobile devices, or in their heads) and purchase needed items when they’re nearby.

7. PT version of an airplane “sick sack”: Useful for busing while pregnant and other, related scenarios (see above).

Do note: A single plastic bag cannot be used in all of the previously described scenarios. Several are single-use use cases and require the bag to be thrown away and replaced. If you find yourself replacing your bag often, you should consider carrying more than one.