Monthly Archives: August 2006

August Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to Warren Yee, volunteer coordinator for Metro Employees Historic Vehicle Association (aka MEHVA), an all-volunteer organization of current and retired Metro employees “dedicated to the preservation of Seattle and King County’s transit heritage through the restoration and operation of vintage transit vehicles as a working, living museum.”

Warren and his team of volunteers don’t just maintain the historic buses; they also donate their time to drive them–for MEHVA-sponsored tours, and occasionally, for private events.

Saturday before last, despite a scheduling mix-up that resulted in some seriously overbooked buses and drivers, Warren worked his volunteer-coordinator magic to provide a wedding bus for Busnerd and me. (It would have been a mini disaster if he hadn’t been able to help us, since we had promised to provide transportation, and many guests had planned accordingly.) He found us a bus (a cool one at that), made sure we had a driver for the first leg (thanks, Manny!), and even stayed up past his bedtime to drive the final leg: the not-so-glamorous post-reception midnight run.

Thank you, Warren, for your efforts to preserve Seattle’s history–and an important day for two people who will never forget you.

Wedding bus
I don’t have a picture of Warren, so here’s the next best thing: a 60s-era Seattle Transit bus.
Wedding bus
Here it is again. You can find more pics of cool, old buses on MEHVA’s website.

Beyond Trip Planner, part II

Most of you know that I think Seattle has a great bus system. Buses here work for me because:

1) I have spent time learning the routes I use regularly, and
2) I do advance research to figure out how to get places I’ve never been before.

Buses here don’t necessarily work for:

1) Tourists.
2) People like Jonathan Kauffman, Seattle Weekly writer and newbie Seattleite. (Brad from First Hill, a former newbie Seattleite, sent me this essay Jonathan wrote about Seattle’s buses.)

Jonathan thinks Metro should have a comprehensive system map that is easily available at major bus stops.

But every time I want to get on a bus, I have to call Mama Metro to tell me which one to take–there’s no way for me to get to know the city on my own terms or my own time. All I need, I’ve been telling anyone who dares offer help to a guy staring up at a bus stop with bewilderment and rage on his face, is a good map: just a street map of Seattle with the bus lines printed on them. That’s it. Portland, Vancouver, and New York have them. You can pick up a street/bus map at every El stop in Chicago or find one posted at every major bus stop in San Francisco. Never felt lost in those cities.

I do, too.

Metro’s current system map is reasonably useful for figuring out which routes go to which parts of the city, but it’s not easily available, and it doesn’t include most street names (key for effective navigation).

What do you guys think? Does Metro need a more extensive system map, or are you happy with Trip Planner and the maps at stops and in schedules?

A regional fare system? Now we’re talkin’!

Metro, Sound Transit and the other major Puget Sound transit agencies (Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Washington State Ferries) are testing a smart-card-based, agency-agnostic, electronic fare system. Hallelujah!

Smart card users can purchase passes on their card or store funds in an electronic purse (“e-purse”) for use in traveling across systems that have different fares.

After my recent fare-related incident on the 550, I’m hoping it will let you do both: buy a pass for your regular commute and keep money in your “e-purse” for when you take a higher-fare trip.

If you want to help test the system this fall, sign up by October 20th.

No love for Bus Chick’s mountain?

The good news:

It will soon be possible to visit national parks without driving a car.

Federal officials awarded grants Monday totaling almost $20 million to reduce traffic in national parks and public lands by providing alternative transit, including trains, shuttle buses and bicycle trails.

Congestion is a growing problem in the nation’s national parks and public lands, which have 700 million visitors annually, Simpson said.

“By and large those visitors currently have only one way of getting in and around our national treasures: by car,” he said.

The goal of the Alternative Transportation in the Parks and Public Lands program is to reduce pollution and congestion, preserve parklands and wildlife areas, and increase access for visitors, including the disabled.

– “Transit grants awarded to national parks,” Associated Press

The bad news:

Mount Rainier National Park won’t be one of them.

The biggest of the 42 grants included $4.7 million to buy rail cars for the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, $1.7 million to buy four buses for Colorado’s White River National Forest, $1.4 million for propane-powered buses for Maine’s Acadia National Park and $1.2 million for a replacement boat dock at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Looks like I’ll have to continue Flexin’ on the annual pilgrimage.

Speaking of young men…

If, before you board the 48, the driver asks, “Are you allowed on the buses again?” and then, seconds after she lets you on, follows with, “You can’t bring gasoline on the bus,” it might be time to brush up on Metro’s code of conduct.

Who says waiting for the bus is boring?

I shared a wait with these guys at the 43 (et al) stop at Pike and 4th. Our friend in the stripes (the apparent love child of Radio Raheem and Antoine Marryweather) and his two sidekicks (probably in diapers around the time boom boxes hit their heyday), kept me entertained, dancing and lip synching to J-Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” (and other selections I did not previously associate with 80s-style boom boxes or men under 22) until my bus arrived.

Boom boxin' for the new millennium
OK, so love don’t cost a thing, but how much for a whole shirt?

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming

Right before my hiatus, someone sent me an interesting article about the real cost of gas. I finally made time to read it today. Here’s an excerpt:

Milton Copulos, an economist with the National Defense Council Foundation, a right-of-center Washington think tank, spent 18 months poring over hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents, toiling to fix a price tag on America’s addiction to global crude….

The actual cost of gasoline refined from imported oil, according to Copulos? Eight dollars a gallon, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last spring… When he isolated hidden costs of Middle Eastern crude in particular, the price jumped to $11… Consumers pay for these expenditures indirectly, through higher taxes, or by saddling their children and grandchildren with a ballooning national debt — increasingly financed by foreigners. The result: Unaware of the true costs, U.S. motorists see no obvious reason to curb their oil habit.

“Gas isn’t too expensive,” Copulos said. “It’s way, way too cheap.”

War, corruption claim heavy toll in Iraqi oil fields,” Paul Salopek, Chicago Tribune

Introducing…Mrs. and Mr. Bus Chick

The wedding festivities are over and done with, and Busnerd (aka Mr. Bus Chick) and I are taking a lot of naps. Whew! Getting married is exhausting. We are grateful for Flexcar (used my membership quite a bit in the past 10 days), but I am happy to be back in my normal bus groove.

For those who asked: We did have a “wedding bus.” We rented an old-school Seattle Transit bus from MEHVA (Metro Employees Historic Vehicle Association) to transport guests from the ceremony to the reception. The bus also picked up out-of-towners at a downtown hotel. This, combined with the scheduling of all other wedding-related events within walking distance of the hotel, made it possible (in theory, anyway) for folks to make the trip without renting a car. Thanks to MEHVA’s volunteer drivers for making it happen.

I don’t have many pics yet, but here are some my father-in-law took of us next to the bus. As you can see (I hope–I compressed them a lot to preserve server space), I was anxious to get going.

The 'just marrieds' by the wedding busWedding busMore wedding bus fun

On busing and belief

A few months ago, inspired by the success of my amazingly brilliant friend Harold, I submitted an essay to NPR’s This I Believe series. I wrote about my decision to live without a car, and even though NPR wasn’t feelin’ the piece (or maybe they just take a really, really long time to read submissions), I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise. It helped me realize how much riding the bus reflects my sense of who I am.

Here is the conclusion of the essay:

I believe in sitting next to my neighbors, in “How you doing today?” and “Nice weather, isn’t it?” I believe in feeling the sun on my skin, in breathing fresh air and moving my body. I believe in eavesdropping. I believe in life stories. I believe in businesspeople and teenage lovers, middle-aged gossips and giggling toddlers. I believe in watching and listening. I believe in naps. I believe in the camaraderie that develops among riders late at night, when the smooth-voiced driver plays jazz loud enough for everyone to enjoy.

I believe in clean air, in keeping cities dense and vibrant, and in protecting our remaining farmland and forests. I believe in the beauty of Puget Sound and the majesty of Mount Rainier. I believe in sharing the world’s resources equally, in reverence for human life, and in solidarity with other brown people around the globe.

I believe that change is possible–if more of us ride.

I just read it to my friend Monique, who is visiting from Houston. Her response: “I believe I can fly. Did I tell you I’ve decided on my next hairstyle?” Clearly, the folks at NPR aren’t the only ones who found it tedious. Still, I am bravely posting in hopes of getting a conversation started.

Dear readers, why do you ride?