Monthly Archives: May 2006

From mothers to fathers

In my new tradition of adding up the bus numbers I ride each day, today would be a zero. Why ride when the sun is out and your destinations are close enough to walk to? (And yes, to the many friends I have talked into walking somewhere with me, I realize that “close” is a subjective word.)

As much as I love beautiful days like this, they always make me think of people who can’t enjoy them–specifically, people in prisons and hospitals. Maybe it’s because of the war, or what my mother has been going through lately.

Maybe it’s because of that sunny day almost exactly two years ago, when I sat across from an adorable three-year old boy on the ride up James from 3rd Avenue. He was standing on the seat next to his mother, pointing out trees, birds, and everything else he could identify. When we passed the jail, he started jumping up and down and waving frantically out the window. Then, at the top of his lungs, he hollered:

“Hi Daddy!”

I’m still recovering.

If not the nation, then at least King County

Yesterday, Ron Sims announced that King County will join the Chicago Climate Exchange, making it the first county (and making Metro the first bus transit agency) to participate.

“The contract obligates King County to reduce emissions by six percent from a baseline of its year 2000 emissions. Sims said the county is expected to meet or beat this target.”

Now, if each of us would do the same, we could make a huge difference in the quality of our air and water. As an incentive, maybe we could institute a carbon market for individuals. :)

Still more on mommies

This time, mine.

In honor of Mother’s Day, my March 29th Real Change column:

Back on the 8

Every time I hear Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” I am transported to the house where I grew up and to the joy of dancing in the living room with my father on a Saturday afternoon. “The Men All Pause” by Klymaxx reminds me of my older sister, Carey, gorgeous and powerful and singing along with the record player in our childhood bedroom. Anything by Black Sheep takes me back to my college days, when my girlfriend, Monique, and I would beg our dorm-mates for a ride to the current “it” club and dance ourselves dizzy to “This or That.”

Buses, too, have associations for me. The 2 was the route I took to my elementary school. On one ride, a schoolmate got “beat up” (read: slapped and pushed a few times until the bus driver intervened) by some older girls. To this day, I cannot ride a 2 without remembering that incident. I was on the 545 the first time I saw my fiancé, and I will always associate it with the thrill of our first few months together, when the endless, inch-by-inch crawl across the lake seemed far too short. The 194, the “airport bus,” reminds me of all of my best adventures, including (and especially) my trip to Paris last May.

Then there’s the 8, which takes me from my house in the Central District to 15th Ave. on Capitol Hill. I love 15th — August Wilson vibes at Victrola, Frida Kahlo coasters at Casita, scrambles and coffee cake at Coastal Kitchen — and have long associated the 8 with this marvelous street.

In January of 2004, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in as many years, and my reasons for traveling to 15th Ave. changed. I rode the 8 to Group Health for surgeries, chemo appointments, CT scans, and emergency-room visits. My once-favored route came to symbolize sickness, sadness, and fear. After the cancer went into remission last October, I avoided that bus, along with everything else that reminded me of my mother’s illness.

Last week, I received devastating news: my mother’s cancer has returned. This time, it is not curable. Friday morning, I rode the 8 to meet her for the first of what will undoubtedly be many terrifying and unpleasant hospital visits. But the memories that came to me during that ride were not of toxic drugs, or blood clots, or chances of survival. They were of the Vogue magazines and heated blankets in the infusion center, the chalky “banana” barium shakes in radiology, and the beautiful view from the fifth floor of the main building. They were of endless waits in urgent care — one of which was rewarded by a visit from the cutest emergency-room doctor ever to walk the halls of a hospital — and of diva outfits temporarily replaced by hospital gowns.

The 8 reminds me of laughter. It reminds me of my mother.

Today we took the Water Taxi over to my parents’ side of Elliott Bay, and the whole darn family (me, Adam, both brothers, one brother’s girlfriend, Mom, and Dad)–minus my sister, who lives in California–had brunch at Salty’s.

It’s been a weekend of boats, mothers, and celebrations.

The Fam, minus Carey, plus Adam and LaurenBus Chick on the Water Taxi

Speaking of mommies and sidewalks…

Today Adam and I went to a party (OK, it was a baby shower) on Bainbridge Island. Of course it was a piece of cake (pun intended) getting to Colman Dock (took the 27 to 3rd & Columbia, then walked west on Marion all the way to the passenger terminal), but the rest of the trip was a bit more of a challenge.

The party was held at the home of the mother-to-be’s sister, which was about three miles from the ferry dock. The shower started at 1:00, and the Kitsap Transit route we needed to take didn’t start running until 3:40. (It was one of those commuter routes that runs outbound only in the morning and inbound only in the afternoon.) We could have taken a taxi, but since it was Saturday and we weren’t pressed for time, we decided to walk.

The first mile was lovely. It was a beautiful day, and Winslow’s downtown area has lots of shops, restaurants, and people. We passed an outdoor farmer’s market and several tree-lined neighborhoods. Then, the sidewalks ran out. The roads turned into the curvy, stoplight-free, suburban/country highway variety. We walked another mile on the shoulder of a fairly busy road, alternating between a narrow bike path and the tall grass that was growing alongside the ditch, hoping that everyone who drove past us was both sober and competent. I’m not sure that this was true, but no one hit us (though one car did run into the bike lane and come very close).

Near the end of mile two, the father-to-be passed us and turned around to pick us up–thankfully, right before the bike lane ran out.

The good news: There was red wine at the shower, and I won one of the games. I guess all these years riding buses with pregnant women has made me pretty good at estimating their girth.

One spare tire begets another

Looking to regain (or hang on to) the trim figure you had in your teens? Forget about Atkins and South Beach. Don’t sign up for costly gym memberships or trendy exercise classes you don’t have time to attend. Instead, try Bus Chick’s Diet Plan.

My plan is simple (no counting of carbs, fats, calories, or “points”), effective (judging from all the sexy bus riders I know), and best of all, free. You can still eat ice cream, and you never even have to look at a treadmill–unless, of course, you happen to like them. All you have to do, folks, is drop that other dead weight: your car.

Here’s why the plan works (it’s not rocket science, but indulge me):

1. You will exercise more.
You will walk to and from bus stops and run to catch buses when you are late. You will walk with grocery bags and shopping bags. (On Saturday, my car-free fiancé walked from his house to mine–about half a mile–with a coffee table.) You will walk up hills. You will walk up stairs. When you get a late-evening craving, you will be forced to walk to the corner store to find that food you are ahankerin’ for.

2. You will eat less.
More often than not, you will decide that your late-night craving is not worth the effort of walking to that corner store. Your desire for fast food will also be significantly reduced, since you will no longer have the option of drive throughs. (Does anyone actually sit in those places to eat?) You are less likely to have a lot of junk food in your house, as grocery shopping trips require effort and planning (making them rare), and each item purchased must be carried–and therefore carefully considered.

People of Seattle, stop spending so much money, time, and effort on diets that don’t work and try my plan. While I can’t promise that you’ll end up with the body of Beyonce or The Rock, I can guarantee that you’ll lose at least a ton.

Some bus routes I like

Despite the fact that the 4 stops right in front of my house; despite the fact that it takes me to downtown, the Seattle Center (basketball!), and Queen Anne (home of 5 Spot); despite the fact that Smooth Jazz is one of the regular drivers, the 4 is one of my least favorite routes–especially in the middle of the day. I can deal with the fact that it is crowded and noisy (can’t be mad at a lot of people riding), but crowded+noisy+angry+slow is a combination I can’t work with. Because of all the folks (many committing multiple bus fouls), it crawls along at a pace I could beat walking, and at least when I’m walking, there isn’t someone cursing his head off in my ear. Well, at least not usually.

After a particularly excruciating ride on the 4 yesterday, I got to thinking about what makes a bus route “good.” Here are the factors that I consider:

• Destination: If a bus goes somewhere I need to go frequently–or somewhere I like to go frequently–it gets extra points.
• Speed: A little meandering can make a ride pleasant, but if I can walk faster than the bus can get me there, it ain’t my kind of ride.
• Flavor: This has to do with the culture of the bus (Who rides it? Are they all quiet and boring? Do they talk to each other? Do they yell? Do they fight? Do they commit bus fouls?) and the “vibe” (Is it generally negative or positive?).

With these criteria in mind, here are some of my favorites:

27: In contrast to the slow, noisy 4 is the speedy, efficient 27. This bus also stops right in front of my house and also takes me downtown. It doesn’t go to Queen Anne or Seattle Center, but to make up for that, the east-bound route takes me straight to the lake. The 27 still has flavor, but it’s missing the negative energy (I’d call it “4 light”), and though it’s sometimes crowded, it always makes good time.

48: This is the longest bus route in the city. It goes all the way from Rainier Beach to the north end without once getting on the freeway. I take it both ways–to Columbia City, to the U District, to Greenlake, and, if I’m going to the Eastside, to Montlake. I also take it to church, which is just a few stops north of my house. Because of the length of the route and the neighborhoods it travels through, the 48 has an interesting mix of people, and the flavor of the bus continues to change as people get on and off.

545: OK, so this route is not very useful unless you live in Seattle and work in Redmond (or vice versa, I suppose), and even though this is no longer true for me (I get to stay in Seattle all day now!), I still love the 545. It is fast, always packed, and (if you can find a seat) comfortable. On a clear day, you can’t beat the view on the way across the lake, and I gotta say: I love the Capitol-Hill-hipster-meets-supernerd flavor.

194: The 194 goes from downtown to the airport (and then, I think, to Federal Way). If you live in or near downtown, it’s just as fast as a shuttle or a cab, and you can’t beat the price. There’s a good mix of “regulars” (south-end dwellers) and newbies (airport types), and it’s fun to make up destinations for all the folks with luggage.

I’m running out of time, so I’ll end my list there. Maybe we could add up all the route numbers and create the perfect route: the 814.

But enough about what I think. It’s more fun for readers (and me) to know what lots of people think. What are your favorite routes? Why?

Fidelity not getting you the results you want?

Try Metro!

We bus chicks aren’t just sexy; we also have big bank accounts.

“Terry Bassett, head of the Yolo County bus system, sent us some calculations he had done that show a person could save $500,000 over the next 25 years if that person took the bus rather than a car and invested all monthly savings conservatively in a pre-tax 401(k) plan.” – Sacramento Bee


Yesterday, I took the Elliott Bay Water Taxi (aka “the foot ferry”) to visit my parents. Considering the crappy bus service to their new place, it was reasonably convenient. But convenient, shmonvenient. It was also a lot of fun!

The ride takes about 15 minutes–long enough to settle in and enjoy the view (and what a view–I am jealous of all those West Seattle commuters), but not so long that it becomes tedious. The main part of the boat is enclosed (with lots of windows, of course), but there is also an open deck upstairs.

The good:
• The price. The Water Taxi costs $3.00, but it is totally free if you have a bus pass of any denomination.
• The convenience. Drop-off and pick-up locations (Seacrest Park and Pier 55) are easy to get to, and there is a free shuttle van (DART route 773) that takes riders from Seacrest Park to other destinations in West Seattle, including Alki Beach and Alaska Junction.

The bad:
• The timing. Schedules are, apparently, approximations. The ferry on the way over there was a bit late, but there’s only one boat, so it’s easy to see how that could happen. The ferry on the way back (the last one of the evening, mind) left a full four minutes early. We (me, my parents, my aunt, and some friends of my parents) were eating fish and chips at the restaurant right next to the boarding dock as my ride home pulled away.
• The limited availability. Of course I would like to see the hours expanded, but I have no idea whether that makes sense, given ridership, costs, etc. My mother told me that the boat does run late on Mariner nights, so for now, I’ll try to time my visits to coincide with home games.