Monthly Archives: July 2006

“If you’re going to sell dope…”

“…don’t do it in front of a camera.”

So was the advice of one of the six transit cops who busted a man and a woman in the process of such a transaction at the 3rd Avenue stop between James and Yesler.

Ladies and gentleman, there are cameras in bus shelters these days, even in some that are not across the street from courthouses. Just so you know.

On a serious note: The popularity of the show Cops has always baffled me. There is nothing more unpleasant than watching an arrest.

Metro’s media

1) Beginning bus chicks and bus nerds can learn the ropes by watching this video on Metro’s website. Be warned: No one on the bus is that official or well-mannered. Besides, back in my day, we learned the old-fashioned way: trial, error, and a healthy dose of public embarrassment.

2) King County Television has a new show: Inside Transportation.

The new TV show features two groups of panelists who look at transportation needs in King County from different perspectives. The panelists include: King County Executive Ron Sims, King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, King County Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond, Transportation Choices Coalition Field Manager Rachel Smith, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Executive Director Dennis McLerran, and Barbara Wright with King County Environmental Health.

Inside Transportation airs on channel 22 (72 or 80 in some areas of the county) Tuesdays at 5 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Sundays at 6 p.m. This week’s topic: Transit Now.

Props to the county for including the fabulous Rachel Smith (from TCC) on the panel. I might just have to traipse over to Busnerd’s place and press record on the media center.

And speaking of Detroit…

Our mini Monorail may have fallen on hard times, but Motown’s is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, not coincidentally, during a major expansion of downtown and in-city housing.

And it looks like Detroiters are thinking bigger (transit-wise) than a tour of downtown attractions.

A transit system is essential for Detroit to grow and compete with other big cities such as Chicago and New York, said Kami Pothukuchi, associate professor of urban planning at Wayne State University.

The system moves people around once they get downtown, “but it’s certainly not an alternative for a transit system that provides access from various parts of the city to the downtown or the region to the downtown,” Pothukuchi said.

– “Trains in Transit: People Mover rides high,” Detroit Free Press

The city that was built by and for cars, that has taken sprawl to a level that we (sprawled out) Puget Sounders cannot even begin to conceive of, is finally starting to think about density, transit, and the relationship of both to a thriving economy.

Speaking of love…

On Saturday, I received a surprise in the mail from my future mother-in-law (too cool for that title and so to be known henceforth as “my Gail”). My Gail lives in Detroit, a city that, despite plans for a fabulous new Rosa Parks Transit Center, is not known for its buses. It is, however, a city known for its cool t-shirts, and my Gail managed to find me the coolest one of all. It has a picture of a vintage 53, a route that travels the length of Woodward Avenue, one of the longest of Detroit’s very long streets. (I think I rode the 53 to a museum on one of my visits.) I can’t find the shirt on the Internet, but here’s what the picture of the bus looks like:

Detroit Transit apparel

I wish I could wear it every day.

48 + 16 = love

Yesterday, Busnerd and I had to go to Northgate to run an errand. We started our trip on the 48 and spent about 20 minutes of the ride sitting behind a pretty standard instance of college bus luh: a jock-looking guy and a ponytailed girl, holding hands, rubbing each other’s shoulders and thighs, and kissing occasionally. We caught the 16 at 82nd and Wallingford (incidentally, in front of my youngest brother Joel‘s old high school) and rode with a few more couples to Northgate Way and 5th Ave NE. The store we visited was also filled with couples in love (yes, folks, we were ordering our wedding rings), and so was the stop where we waited after we were finished. (Actually, there were two other people at the stop–a guy and a girl–and I can’t prove that they were in love or even that they were a couple, but I’m going with it for the sake of the story.)

The 16 ride back to 82nd and Wallingford was uneventful, as was the 48 ride back to my neighborhood–that is, until the bus was delayed less than a block from my stop by a fire truck backing into the station. During the wait, a man approached us and asked (in Spanish) to borrow a pen. I handed him one of the many in my bus chick bag, at which point he returned to the back to perform a bus mack on a woman who was riding with her pre-teen son, and who, as far as I could tell, did not speak a word of Spanish. He managed to get the digits nonetheless (wish I’d been close enough peep his technique), and after he had finished writing them down, he politely thanked her.

Her reply:

“No, thank you. I really needed this.”

If not Mount Rainier, then at least Mount Vernon

Jim (left) on the most recent of his public transportation adventures

Jim Moore is a person who lives his job. A service planner for Sound Transit, the man will take public transportation anywhere: from Seattle to Anacortes, from Lake Quinalt to Seattle, and even from Seattle to Brewster (near Okanagan).

On Friday, to test the integration of the Sounder commuter train with one of Skagit Transit’s newest bus routes, Jim (and two other Sound Transit employees), completely of their own volition and using their own time and resources, took public transportation to Mount Vernon. I was fortunate to be one of the people invited along.

First, we took the Sounder from King Street Station to Everett. I am an old hand at riding Amtrak to Vancouver, but this was my first time on a Sounder. The ride costs $3.00 (less if you have a bus pass, nothing if you have a Flexpass), and you can actually purchase your ticket from a machine on the platform.

The train was comfortable, with reclining seats, plenty of legroom, outlets for electronic devices, and overhead storage bins. There were also bathrooms, a huge plus in this bus chick’s book. (Miraculously, I didn’t need to use one, so I can’t tell you how clean they were.) We rode in the front car, which is testing a wireless pilot. I did use that, and, as you can see from my hurried Friday afternoon post, it worked fine. But the best part, hands down, was the view. We spent the hour-long ride kicking back, looking out the window, and asking Jim how to get to various rural locations using transit.

View from the northbound Sounder, somewhere between Seattle and Everett

At Everett Station, we transferred to the Everett Connector (route 90 X), an express bus from Everett to Mount Vernon operated by Skagit Transit. The 90 X is a new route (started on July 10th) and currently runs four times (round-trip) in the morning and four times (round trip) in the evening. The ride to Mount Vernon’s Skagit Station (where you can also catch an Amtrak train, a Greyhound bus, or an Island Transit bus) costs $2.00 and takes about 50 minutes.

In Mount Vernon, we ate dinner at Skagit River Brewery, which is half a block from the train station. Some of my fellow travelers ordered a pitcher of their strong, house-made beer and were kind enough to let me taste it. (It was, indeed, very strong.) I ordered a barbecue “appetizer” that turned out to be large enough to serve sixteen. I barely made a dent (had to save room for dessert, after all) and so packed up the smelly pile of meat to carry on the long trip home.

To save time (and also because we had stayed out later than the last 90 X), we caught the southbound Amtrak right from the Mount Vernon station. The train, which was coming from Vancouver, was crowded by the time we got on, so to keep the group together, we sat in the bar car.

While I drank merlot from a plastic cup and watched the sun set in the spectacular Skagit Valley, I got schooled by Jim and the other transit nerds (“foamers,” as they call themselves) who came along for the ride. As someone who knows a lot about riding public transportation but very little about how it is funded or run, I was completely in awe of their deep understanding of all things transit. They knew about the history of the systems in our region. They knew about land use laws. They knew about the status of all of the transit-related ballot measures. They knew the manufacturer and model of the 90 X. And they knew just about everything there is to know about trains: speed capabilities, safety records, weight regulations, track conditions.

I was glad it was Friday and that I was enjoying the conversation, because there were a few delays (I think to let other trains pass) on the way back. We finally made it to King Street station at about 10:35 (scheduled in at 10:05). I caught the 14 home right outside the station.

Et voila! Seattle to Mount Vernon and back again, with some strong beer, great views, and not-so-great wine in between. Not bad for a car-free Friday night.

Cool stuff I encountered along the way:

• Skagit Transit’s fare boxes. They’ll take bills up to $20 and give you change in the form of a fare card. Nice!
• Internet kiosks in Everett station. They allow free trip planning but charge for general surfing. The paid surfing (usually, I assume by folks waiting for the train) funds the kiosks and their maintenance. Brilliant!
• Chocolate mousse and Snickers pies at Skagit River Brewery. Yum!

Not-so-cool stuff:
• Those trip-planning kiosks I mentioned earlier were out of service when I visited, so I didn’t get to see how well they worked. Actually, I guess I did.
• Amtrak’s self-serve ticketing machine in the Mount Vernon station. It was unreliable and prone to freezing. We barely got our tickets before the train arrived.
• Amtrak’s grouchy staff. Either Amtrak is seriously overworking these people, or they need to consider a different line of work.

Another hurdle cleared

Sound Transit board approval? Check!

From today’s PI: “Light rail chosen to link Seattle, Eastside”

Next step: taxpayer approval

The Eastside rail service, projected to cost up to $3.9 billion for an 11-mile route from downtown Seattle to Redmond, would be part of the second phase of the regional transit agency’s development, stretching over the next 20 years. It is expected to be among the projects that Sound Transit will submit to voters in its service area in a tax package next year.

If all goes well, we should have light rail to the Eastside before I’m eligible to join AARP.

Thursday, July 13th, 5:30 PM: eastbound 4

A woman in the back, too intoxicated to know she is embarrassing herself, is yelling at her friends, who are also too intoxicated to know she is embarrassing herself. The tone is good natured, but the content is inappropriate: sexually explicit, violent, and generally vulgar. The rest of us sit in silence, some amused, most embarrassed for her. At around 7th & James, her hollering escalates to NBA finals/Prince concert levels, and the subject matter changes.

“I’m a Mohawk, people! Capeesh? A Mohawk. Capeesh? Yep, Mohawk. Capeesh? Capeesh? Capeesh? Caaaaaaa-peeeeeeesh?”

At a break in the hollering, a Spanish-speaking man in front of me turns to his fellow passengers and asks, “What that means–‘capeesh’?”