Monthly Archives: July 2006

July Golden Transfer

Golden Transfer, designed by Zach TuckerWay back in the beginning of the month, I took the 550 to Bellevue to pick up a Flexcar for a weekend rental. Because I’d been on a fairly long hiatus from my job on the Eastside, and because I had rushed to catch this particular 550, I completely forgot that a ride across the lake on a Sound Transit bus costs $2.50, a dollar more than my $1.50 pass.

Unfortunately, my wallet contained no singles–only a $20 bill and 70 cents in change. By the time I realized this, the bus was long past the ride-free zone, which meant it was too late to get off and break the bill (read: buy some chocolate). And so, fueled by bad childhood memories of the day I lost my bus tickets on the way to school and an irrational fear of committing a bus foul, I began to panic.

I didn’t want to draw attention to my situation by asking the other passengers for change, but, after a split second of deliberation, decided it was far preferable to the attention I would draw if I waited to work it out with the bus driver at the end of the ride. I sucked it up and asked the woman next to me if she could break a 20. She couldn’t.

At the stop on Mercer Island, I mustered up the courage to try again, this time with the guy in front of me. He had some change, but not 20 dollars’ worth. When I offered to trade the 20 for whatever he had, he asked what I needed it for. I explained my situation, and he handed me a dollar, refusing my 70 cents and my profuse thanks.

“It’s no big deal,” he said. “It’s just a dollar.”

Then he got off the bus. (I assume it was because we had reached his stop, but there’s also the chance he wanted to avoid the possibility of any other psycho chicks begging him for bus fare.)

And so, I am awarding July’s Golden Transfer to my unknown 550 hero. Yes, it was just a dollar, but on that particular afternoon, it was everything to this bus chick.

Speaking of bus fouls…

Tonight’s 4 was slower than ever and packed with people, people committing every bus foul known to woman, including:

Foul• Refusing to move to the back, despite the fact that the bus was beyond capacity, and there were at least three empty seats back there.
• Eating smelly meals from styrofoam takeout containers (this is not just a bus foul–it’s against Metro’s rules).
• Turning up headphones, as loud as they would go, not placing them near any actual ears, and then chair dancing all over everyone in the immediate vicinity.
• Engaging in (the ever popular) too-loud personal conversations.

Which reminds me: Thanks for submitting all those great fouls back in May. I used many of them to write “Bus Fouls, Part II,” which hit the streets (literally) on Wednesday.

Bus Fouls, Part II


It seems that the Sonics and Storm soon will be leaving us for Oklahoma City (a city that, by the way, does not offer bus service past 7:30–or at all on Sundays). Unfortunately, although we bus-riding Seattleites will no longer be able to watch NBA fouls, we continue to have aisle-side seats to rampant and egregious bus fouls.

Here are some reader-submitted fouls I forgot to mention in April (“Bus Fouls,” April 19):

• Dawdling when it’s time to board. Remember that Spike Lee movie–you know, the one about the Million Man March? When your route comes, it’s time to end the conversation (or bus mack, or argument) and get on the bus. If you decide you’d rather talk than ride, don’t get mad and bang on the side when the driver closes the door in your face.

• Rushing when it’s time to board. The opposite of the dawdling boarder is the overeager boarder. Wait for everyone to get off before you get on.

• Not offering your seat to an elderly or disabled passenger. Whether you’re sitting in the reserved section or not, if you see someone who could use a seat more than you, get up. (A lot of readers complained about this foul, but I rarely witness it. People tend to share their seats on the routes I ride. In fact, I’m not elderly or disabled, and last week, on the 36, a chivalrous young man offered me a seat…on his lap.) And speaking of which…

• Unauthorized touching. Incidental touching (foot-stepping, arm-grazing) is an inevitable (if unpleasant) fact of riding the bus. Taking advantage of crowded conditions to cop a feel is offensive and illegal. If you do this, be prepared to be publicly shamed, or (given the recent report on the aggressiveness of transit cops) even arrested.

• Taking up more than one seat. We all know that this is sometimes unavoidable (if you have a lot of groceries or happen to be larger than the seat), but folks, don’t put your belongings (or your feet) on the chair next to you when other people are standing. And don’t have the nerve to roll your eyes — or worse, refuse — if someone asks you to move over.

• Cell-phone talking. A lot of riders don’t like this, but I’m on the fence. If it is a quiet conversation, it’s really no more bothersome than a quiet conversation between two riders. If it’s loud or too personal, then it fits into the “sharing too much of your business” foul from April’s column. Besides, I’d rather see people get on the bus to talk than to endanger my safety by doing so in their cars.

Who knows? Maybe if we learn to play nice on the buses, the owners of our professional sports teams will learn to play nice in the stadiums we’ve already built.

I forgot to include one of the worst fouls (submitted by Freida): “When the bus is standing room only, parking yourself right by the front door so that the rest of us have to squeeze past you to get to the back.”

Guess that means I’ll have to write part III…

The ultimate bus foul (or, “Grope this!)

It appears that male subway riders in New York are having trouble keeping their hands (and other body parts) to themselves.

In some ways, groping seems almost an accepted part of subway culture. Stephanie Vullo, 43, said she had dealt many times with men rubbing up against her or trying to touch her on crowded No. 4 or 5 trains in the morning when she takes her daughter to school.

– “Women Have Seen It All on Subway, Unwillingly,” The New York Times

This is a problem in cities across the world, usually on buses and trains that are crowded enough to afford some level of anonymity. These cities have responded by reserving a handful of buses and train cars for women.

A recent survey found that nearly 64% of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s said they had been groped on trains, subways or at stations in Tokyo.

Groping has long been a problem in Japanese trains, and a few lines have introduced women-only carriages.

– “Surge in groping on Tokyo trains,” BBC News

One or two women-only cars on commuter and metro trains are rolling around Rio de Janeiro during rush hours these days, courtesy of a state law signed on March 8…

The impetus for the law came from a steady influx of calls to a toll-free number that the state government offers for complaints and comments, said Deputy Jorge Picciani, who represents Rio in the state assembly.

– “In Rio Rush Hour, Women Relax in Single-Sex Trains,” Women’s E-News

Special City Bus Service for women is hitting the city roads from today to facilitate hassle free movement of female passengers. “Women-only buses hit Ctg city roads today,” The Daily Star

I can certainly understand why women feel more comfortable in these trains and buses, but I see a couple of problems with the model:

1) It doesn’t scale. There are only a handful of women-only vehicles in these systems, which means that some women will ride in the coed cars. With fewer other women in the cars with them, they are likely to feel (and be) more vulnerable. If the cities respond by adding more vehicles for women, they will soon end up with segregated public transportation systems.

2) It doesn’t really address the problem. The cultural norms (or impulses, or whatever) that cause this to happen on such a large scale need to be identified and addressed (of course, I’m not sure how). Seriously, it completely floors me that such a large number of men feel compelled to do this. Regularly.

In general, the idea that women have to be separated from men to feel safe is disturbing. Public transportation “safe zones” might make sense in the short term (though I doubt these kinds of laws will ever be enacted in the U.S.), but I don’t see them as a sustainable model for the long term.

What do you guys think?

Finally, though I’ve experienced my share of inappropriate male behavior on buses, I have never been subjected to groping–either in Seattle or in any other city.

Has this happened to any of you?

Someday my bus will come

From 'Waiting for the bus'Remember when you were a little kid, and you were waiting for a parent to pick you up from some event, like a skating party or something, and your parent was really late, and you sat and watched your friends (with responsible parents) leave one by one, until finally it was just you and a (slightly annoyed) chaperone (“Are you sure you told them 8:00, dear?”), and you convinced yourself that your folks had either died or decided they were tired of you and run off to Jamaica with the rest of your siblings?

If so, you know how I felt tonight, as I sat at Montlake and waited and waited (and waited) for the 48 to show. I waited almost 30 minutes for a bus that (theoretically, at least) comes every 15. While I waited, I watched several buses pass, including a couple of 43s (not unusual: the 43 is one of those buses you always see too many of–unless, that is, you are waiting for one), a 540, two 271s, several coaches headed to East Base, and the Snuffleupagus of routes, the 25, before my bus finally arrived.

Truth be told, I feel that “last one left at the skating party” sense of panic and abandonment every time the bus I am waiting for is more than five minutes late. I pace. I check the schedule. I pace some more. I squint to see farther down the street. I check the schedule again. Then, I see large headlights in the distance, and my heart soars. It’s coming…here it comes…nope! A Brinks truck. Ryerson. A school bus. Yet another 36. I consider calling Metro. Maybe there was a crazed gunman. Or an explosion. Or an 87-car pile-up.

And then, finally, it arrives, packed full of all the people who were waiting at the stops before mine. I am relieved. I am elated. I am indignant. It’s all I can do not to storm up the steps, poke my lip out and demand of the driver, “Where have you been?”

How cute is this?

I realize that not everyone is a fan of allowing our four-legged (or, in some cases, winged) friends on buses, but I couldn’t resist this picture, sent to my by Jessie, a newly minted Seattle bus chick who sometimes rolls with her dog, Zeus.

Zeus, chillin’ on the 11 on the way to Madison Park

I’m on the fence about Metro’s pro-pet stance. It seems like a potential health hazard, and I imagine that it could seriously aggravate passengers with allergies (or fears). On the other hand, I see it as an added incentive for pet owners who are considering going car free, and as a necessity for those who cannot afford cars.

I’m curious to know what you guys think about this, what with Seattle being such a dog-lovin’ town (they ain’t just on buses, folks) and all. Also, if you happen to know the pet policies of transit agencies in other parts of the country, please do share.

An interesting coincidence

Just days after personally witnessing an arrest by the county’s transit police, I found this article in the paper. I didn’t even know that the county had moved to a full-time force, but I hope they make sure it is staffed with reasonable, responsible people. The cops involved in the incident I saw were a tad smug and more eager than I thought was appropriate, but I wouldn’t say they used excessive force.

Two great reasons (other than the sexy drivers) to get on the bus this weekend

1) The Bite:
A festival that celebrates food? Count me in!

You can’t take the Monorail, but there are many, many Metro buses that serve Seattle Center: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 24, 33 and 74. On Saturday and Sunday, Metro will provide direct shuttles from downtown and Northgate.

2) Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow:

I haven’t been to this since the 80s (back in the whip cut era), but I plan to jump on the (rerouted) 33 and check it out this weekend. Metro will also provide shuttles for this event–from the 33 stop in Discovery Park to Daybreak Star.

Speaking of bus drivers

Uncle SamThe big-haired, Shazza-lookin’ guy at the wheel during our handoff was definitely a candidate for the “Sexiest Driver” award. And while I’m at it, I’ve seen a few other sexy driver types this month:
• Midday on a Saturday: a lovely young woman (possibly a former shampoo model) handling her business on the northbound 48. (Can you tell I’m a fan of hair?)
• Friday afternoon: a super-fit muscleman piloting the westbound 55. Thank God Metro issues a shorts uniform.

A different kind of bus pass

This morning, Busnerd called me at 6:45. He was on his way to Shilshole Marina (27+17+46) for a sailing adventure with his coworkers and wanted to bring his video camera. Unfortunately, he had left the camera at my place after our trip to the mountain a couple of weeks ago, and there wasn’t time for him to pick it up before he had to catch the 27.

Lucky for us, the 27 stops in front of my house, a few blocks west of Busnerd’s stop. He called me when he got on, and I grabbed the camera and headed outside. When the bus got to my stop, he was waiting at the front, at the seat closest to the door. He leaned out, and I made a successful handoff (must have been that season I ran track in 7th grade).

OK, so it wasn’t quite as involved as the bus luh episode when the driver’s S.O. brought him dinner, but we should get extra points for creativity. And for not kissing.