Monthly Archives: December 2006

A coming-out party

Our favorite rail car had its official unveiling today. Due to a series of bus mishaps–starting with an early arrival of the 27 (and a not-early-enough arrival of Bus Chick), and ending with a serious underestimation of the distance between the 23 stop at 4th S. & S. Lander and the Link Operations and Maintenance Base on Airport Way–I was 30 minutes late. This turned out to be a good thing, since I missed all the self-congratulatory speeches (all but one, which turned out to be worth listening to–more later) and got there just in time for the good stuff.


The crowd holds its breath




Gotta love my excellent photography. I should have made a video like my boy Ben Schiendelman. I’ll link to it as soon as he posts it.

Waiting in line

On my first visit with Car #2, I peered longingly in the window. This time, I got to go inside. (OK, everyone did. But still.)

First time inside

That’s Warren from MEHVA on the far right.

Here’s the map of the stops:

Map of stops

Each stop is represented by a different icon.

Now about that speech…

The one I heard was Greg Nickels’. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here–my hands were far too cold to write) that we can no longer continue to build cities to accommodate cars and instead must focus on clean, efficient mass transit systems. Our investment in rail, he said, is not just about moving people from one place to another. It’s about creating a livable city and preserving the world for our (well, your) children and grandchildren.

Uh huh.

Mayor Nickels said he’s been asking Santa for light rail for many years. Now that his wish has been granted, maybe my Christmas wish has a shot.

See you on the train!

A bus to the pass

After Friday’s storm, I’ve had enough excitement for the season. For those still looking for a thrill: I provided some suggestions for getting to the higher elevations without a car in this week’s Real Change column. (Thanks to Laura from Bellevue for the tips.) Winter sports aren’t really my “thing” (plus, I have word count limits), so please let me know if I missed any good options.

A Bus to the Pass

I have to admit it: I’m not much of a winter sports fan. My first clue that snow-related activities weren’t for me was in 7th grade, when, less than an hour into my first skiing lesson (bundled from head to foot but still teary-eyed from the cold), I asked the instructor if I could head into the lodge for the remainder of the afternoon. A few years ago, I tried snowboarding. It was fun and all, but after every fall, I thanked the man upstairs that I didn’t break, tear, sprain, strain, or hyperextend something. And the thing is: I need my legs to get around.

Many of my fellow Seattleites, on the other hand, take their winter sports seriously. For those who actually like performing death-defying acts in ungodly temperatures: If you’ve decided car-free living isn’t for you because you can’t imagine giving up your weekends on the slopes, it might be time to reconsider. After all, you can take the bus to the Pass!

One of the coolest options is Snowbus (, which heads to Snoqualmie Pass every Thursday night during the season. It leaves Seattle (from Pyramid Alehouse) at 5:30 p.m., stops again in Bellevue at around 6, and arrives at the pass by 7. For $49, you get a lift ticket, a sandwich and beer courtesy of Pyramid, and a round-trip ride on a luxury bus (with a bathroom). If you don’t need a lift ticket, you can ride the bus only for $25. Snowbus is reputed to be as much a social event as a form of transportation, but you must be 21 or older to ride. (Hey, they can’t be handing out pints of beer to teenagers.)

Beeline Tours ( offers daily trips to Snoqualmie. It leaves the 65th Street Park & Ride at 7:00 a.m. and makes two stops — Colman Dock and the South Bellevue Park & Ride — on the way to the Pass. The ride costs $35. On weekends, you can buy a ride/lift ticket combo for $75. Beeline offers the advantage of daylong trips, and children are welcome.

For those who’d rather head farther afield for their winter adventures, Crystal Mountain ( operates weekend shuttles to the Pass from Seattle and Tacoma. Cost for adults is $70 with a lift ticket and $35 without.

If you’re not into tour buses, Rideshare Online ( has a special section for folks looking to carpool to the slopes. For the cost of a few gallons of gas, you can probably find a ride to any pass in the region.

Of course, if you don’t know how to ski or snowboard yet, you can always sign up for lessons with a ski school like Fiorini ( and travel to the Pass in style: on a yellow school bus.

How to get a bus chick to buy what you’re selling

I saw this ad on the 545 during last night’s insane ride home:

545 ad

In case you don’t have superhuman vision, here’s what it says:

Your fantastic new job gives you such joy you start walking to work every day and before you can say tiddlywinks you’ve started a car-free revolution and the toxin levels in Puget Sound plummet and the orcas are taken off the endangered species list because the salmon make a miraculous comeback and with the abundance of lean protein our offensive line bulks up 23 lbs per player the Seahawks win the Super Bowl and Seattle is given 3 billion dollars by an anonymous donor and while building an agreeable mass transit system secret documents are unearthed and we discover who killed JFK the Roswell aliens really landed in Fremont and the meaning of all life right here in the Northwest.

Too bad I’m not looking for a job.

What I learned on my ride home

1) If you’re leaving work in the middle of a rainstorm, and the wind is blowing the rain right under your umbrella (assuming you can even keep your umbrella open), and you have a 10-minute walk to the bus stop, and you’ve already ruined one cell phone by walking to and from bus stops in the rain, you can protect your current cell phone (et cetera) by putting your bag on under your waterproof jacket.

(Note: To some bus riders, the above discovery might appear elementary. To this one, it was revolutionary.)

2) If you’re riding on an articulated bus in the middle of a rainstorm, and that articulated bus is rerouted to avoid a fallen tree at 23rd and Republican, and the reroute involves sharp turns and narrow streets, and you happen to be sitting in the middle section, inside that accordion thingy that you liked when you were a kid even though it made you car–well, “bus”–sick, and that accordion thingy is full of water and bending in ways nature never intended, you will get wet. So, unfortunately, will that cell phone you worked so hard to preserve.

A bus in the hand…

I can take any one of three buses home from downtown–in order of preference, the 27, the 4, or the 14. The 27 is hands down my favorite of the three because it’s fast and takes me directly to my house. If the 27 isn’t coming anytime soon, I fall back on the 4, which, though significantly slower and less pleasant than the 27, also takes me directly to my house. The 14 is slow and requires a walk, so I take it only when neither of the other two buses is coming soon.

Tonight, I found myself at the Benaroya Hall stop on 3rd Avenue sometime between 7:35 and 7:45. The 27 was scheduled to be there at 7:55, the 4 at 8:00, and the 14 at 8:07. By 8:00, the 27 had not yet arrived. At 8:02 (with still no sign of the 27), the 4 came, and with it, my dilemma: Should I continue to wait for my preferred bus, with no way of anticipating how much longer it would be, or should I take the less desirable–but guaranteed–ride?

Several times a week, I am faced with a choice like this, and my decision is usually made by weighing a complex set of factors (weather, time of day, mood, consequences of lateness). An example: If it’s late at night and one of the choices involves a walk, I’ll probably opt for the choice that doesn’t, even if the wait is longer or the bus is slower.

Tonight, I opted for the 4, because of my desire for immediate warmth and my recent experience with extremely late buses. I arrived home to find Bus Nerd, who, it turns out, had also just come from downtown (he’d been waiting at a different stop on 3rd). He had been faced with the same dilemma but had chosen to wait for the 27, which, it turns out, arrived five minutes after the 4. I was warm for the five minutes he was still waiting, but despite my head start, he beat me home.

Fellow riders: What do you do in cases like this? Do you settle for the “bus in the hand” or hold out for a better ride?

Recently spotted in transit

Either a bus veered way off course, or some sad souls have too much time on their hands.

Broken sign
At least the schedule’s still intact.

So much for the cool, new signal light at this freeway station.

Speaking of cool…

Relief for bus riders who want to know where the heck their bus is already:

Tracker at OTC
Time to install those updates!

This monitor at Overlake Transit Center shows Tracker’s location view for all the buses that stop there. The monitor is displayed through a window of one of the OTC buildings. Here’s an attempt at some context:

Tracker at OTC
That’s Bus Nerd in the reflection.

Love it! Maybe I’m dreaming too big, but I’d like to see something like this at every major bus stop.

Speaking of bus stops…

Printer in trash
E-waste at the 8 stop on Yesler & 23rd

Maybe they thought the sign said, “Bottles, cans, and printers only.” The saddest part: There was a monitor on top of a trash can at one of the later stops on the same ride. Just foul.

Speaking of fouls

Feet up on bus
Getting comfortable on the 27

Who needs a sofa when you can put your feet up on the bus? Not feelin’ this situation at all.

I am, however, feelin’ this situation:

Zune swap
Hipster-geeks swapping music on the 545
Zune swap
Wonder what song it was?

I’ve been saying that the bus would be a great place to test Zune’s wireless file sharing. No word on whether this particular test was successful.

Can bus chicks hibernate for the winter?

I have a pretty cool work schedule: On Mondays, I don’t have to go to my office, and I get to spend the entire day working on personal writing projects. Today’s agenda: A morning coffee in Belltown with a new friend (hey, Cherie!), a few miscellaneous errands in NoDo (my new name for Belltown/SLU/Lower Queen Anne), and then an afternoon of writing at home.

I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a stuffy nose but decided to brave the rain anyway. Would that I had just stayed home!

I was early for the coffee and so decided to use the extra time to stop at Nordy’s and pick up a recently tapped pair of boots. This meant a wet walk (balancing bus chick bag, paper shopping bag with fixed-up boots, and umbrella) back to 3rd Avenue; a soggy, steamy ride up to Belltown; and another wet walk (dodging puddles and traffic tsunamis) over to the appointed meeting place on 1st. After coffee, I stopped at a knitting store a few blocks south of the coffee shop. There, after purchasing a book of patterns for my mother (though not a bus rider, my mom is a hardcore practitioner of the new “it” bus pastime), I exchanged my soggy and rapidly disintegrating Nordstrom shopping bag for one of theirs (also paper) and then hoofed it the four and a half blocks to the nearest (shelterless) 28 stop. At this point, I called Bus Nerd (balancing the bus chick bag, new soggy paper bag, umbrella, and phone) to find out the exact address of the projector repair place I was headed to. Fifteen minutes later, the 28 came. (It was on time; I had just neglected to check the schedule in advance.) The windows on the 28 were so fogged up that I missed my stop and had to walk two wet blocks back to the repair shop. Then, it was another four-and-a-half block walk (wind whipping, cars splashing, bag ripping) to the 8 stop on Denny and Aurora. Four hours (and a couple of lifetimes) after I had left my house this morning, I finally arrived home.

I realize that this insanity was as much about bad weather and bad decisions as it was about buses, but daaaang. I spent too much time, got too little accomplished, and got a little too much exposure to the elements. At no point during the ordeal did I find myself wishing for a car. (Driving in the city in the rain and searching/paying for parking? I’ll pass.) I did, however, find myself wishing for summer (Oh August, how I miss you!), and maybe a train–anything with indoor stations and predictable schedules.

This week in transit blogs

On Friends of Seattle: A discussion of Neal Pierce’s December 4th column. An excerpt from the column:

Yet, as expensive as new and expanded transit may be, the ultimate question isn’t money (indeed the federal government’s “New Starts” fund is swamped with 200 applications and shrinking dollars). Rather, it’s whether we have the will to reshape urban America in more compact, livable, energy-conscious ways. That means organizing regionally on multiple fronts …

On Cars Are Evil: A thoughtful analysis of L.A.-style sprawl:

If we are to believe that Southern California’s great triumph is giving people exactly what they want, then the region is the mirror by which we can view our true selves. Like the drunk who takes a hard, cold look at himself the morning after another night of overindulgence, we can’t like what we see. The crowded, unsightly landscape of Los Angeles is the logical conclusion to notion that everyone can have room to escape to their own private Eden. Add in the massive inefficiency and destruction caused by congestion, the untenable dependence on other people’s water, and the city’s role in the demise of the ubiquitous streetcars throughout the country, and the triumph of Los Angeles is as hollow as the sappy ending in a Hollywood movie.

On Streetsblog: Shocking news! Seoul got rid of a highway and improved (among many other things) traffic.

As the debate over traffic relief heats up in New York City, take a look at how the demolition of an elevated highway motorway the center of South Korea’s capital and the restoration of a river and park in its place shows how taking space away from cars and trucks can lead to less traffic congestion, a better local economy, and a healthier, more livable city.

Bus-chick-friendly weekend events

Another library celebration/historic bus tour combo:

Saturday, December 9th

MEHVA, our favorite historic vehicle preservation organization, is hosting its annual Holiday Lights Tour. I’m pretty sure they’re going to use the cool buses this time.

Where: Begins at 2nd & Main
When: 7:00 PM
Cost: $4-$5, depending on your age

Sunday, December 10th

Floating Bridge Press celebrates Metro’s Poetry on the Buses program with readings from (and a reception for) their newly released anthology: Poetry on the Buses: An Anthology of Poetry on Wheels 1995-2005. Bus Nerd totally should have submitted his bus stop spoken word.

Where: Central Library
When: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
How much: Free! (The book costs $10.)

A (hopefully) final word about bus wraps

Sharron Shinbo, project manager for Metro’s bus wrap program, sent me this in response to my question about “clear-window” bus wraps:

All of Metro’s 25 wrapped buses have the same type of perforated vinyl on the windows. The 3M products specified for use in King County are the current transit industry standard used throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries worldwide. On the Breda trolleys the window tint is lighter than on the other types of coaches so even with the black IPOD ad on the outside of the bus one can very easily see outside and through the windows.

I’ve inserted a recent article from the Puget Sound Business Journal, in case you had not seen it. Heidi Dietrich wrote a very factual piece. There is only one small error…… She wrote, “The bus wraps currently generate $700,000 a year for Metro, out of a total of $4.6 million in revenue from all forms of bus ads.” Actually, the bus wraps currently generate over $ 700,000 a year for Metro, in addition to $4.65 million in revenue from the framed ads on the buses.

The Council adopted a 2007 budget that contained the following proviso,” The transit division shall not enter into, or authorize its contractor to enter into, any new agreements, or extend any such agreements, for exterior bus advertising that involve covering any portion of a bus side window. ” Titan Outdoor, Metro’s contractor, is allowed to honor any contracts that were in place at the time the Council adopted the budget. They have sold 25 wrapped buses for 2007.

Some excerpts from the article Sharron sent:

“It’s a good program that provides desperately needed revenue at a time when fuel costs are accelerating,” Desmond said.

Phillips countered: “We realize there’s a revenue loss on this, but our first responsibility is to the public.”

Council members decided to eliminate the window-covering ads because riders complained that wrapped buses were dark and the wraps greatly reduced views, Phillips said.

Between January and September, Metro received 12,400 total complaints, and only 103 were related to the advertising wraps, Desmond said. He acknowledges that far more people are probably dissatisfied with the wraps than have officially complained. Still, he said, the wrapped buses are reassigned to different routes each day and a single rider would not often ride in the same wrapped vehicle. Metro allows wraps on just 25 of the fleet’s 1,300 buses.

It’s unfortunate that 3M can’t develop a technology that allows Metro to earn revenue and riders to see where they’re going.