Monthly Archives: March 2007

What’s better than free food at a transit fest?

A few weeks ago, my employer sponsored Bus to Work Day at Overlake Transit Center. It was a fun Friday distraction, with representation from transit agencies and commute specialists, free food (including chocolate-chip cupcakes!), and a prize drawing. I entered the drawing and then promptly forgot about it–that is, until Wednesday, when I found out that I’d won a brand new, shiny, red folding bicycle.

One of the (many) reasons I rarely ride a bike is because there is no outdoor bike storage where I live. (The hand-me-down mountain bike that Bus Nerd hooked me up with is currently languishing in his office, awaiting a dusting off in time for Bike to Work Day. But I digress.) A folding bike is a perfect solution because I can store it inside–in a closet, or even under the bed.

The bike I won is a Dahon. I don’t know much about bike manufacturers, but so far, I like what I’ve seen on the company’s website:

Dahon was founded with the singular purpose of convincing more people to use environmentally-sustainable forms of transport. To accomplish this goal, we’ve focused on creating innovative but reasonably-priced folding bicycles.


Dahon is committed to creating green mobility solutions for people who live active, environmentally friendly lifestyles.

I also love the design. It’s compact and fairly simple to open and close.

Open bike
My new bike, open and ready to ride
Closed bike
Less than a minute later: my new bike, folded and ready to store

Of course, I don’t know how it rides yet, having only tried for a couple of minutes in front of my office on Thursday afternoon, and I’m not sure how well it will work for multi-modal scenarios. When I tried to take it home from work (in its folded state) on Thursday, the 545 driver told me I couldn’t bring it on the bus. I didn’t have time to unfold it, and I wasn’t convinced that, given its small wheels, it would fit on the regular bike rack. Lord knows I wasn’t trying to experiment on a bus full of impatient commuters. He finally allowed me to store it under one of the lifting seats in the front. At Montlake, I was nervous getting on the 48, but that driver let me on without a word.

I’ve seen folded bikes on the bus before, but I don’t know what the official rule is, or even if there is one. Until I know for sure (or at least until I’ve had a chance to see if mine will fit on regular bike rack), I’ll keep it in the coat closet and use it for the trips I’ve been wanting a bike for: regular errands that are too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time but are inconvenient by bus. Oh yeah–and trips to Cupcake Royale.

Speaking of the glossary…

Here are a few fun submissions from Kim in Shoreline. (I edited Kim’s definitions some, but I think that mine are true to her original intentions. Hopefully, Kim will correct them if they aren’t.)

Bus buddy: A person you often run into on (and probably know from) the bus. When you run into this person, you sit with him or her and usually enjoy a pleasant conversation, but the friendship rarely extends beyond transit. (See also: bus family)

Imaginary friend: The apparently invisible person sitting next to that bus rider who insists on sitting in the outside seat even though the inside seat in empty and the bus is full. (Usage: From one bus rider to another, “Is that your imaginary friend?”)

Phobe: The term for the rider (defined above) who refuses to move to the inside seat, apparently due to a phobia.

B.O. bounce: The act of abruptly getting up and moving after sitting down next to a rider who is emitting a less-than-ideal odor. (See also: funky bus)

On the first one: Kim used the term “bus friend” for this, but I wanted to have some way of distinguishing between a friend you make on the bus who remains relegated to your bus rides, and a friend you make on the bus (a la Bus Nerd and Coby) who becomes part of your world. I’m not sure if “bus friend” is the right term for the latter, but it’s a good candidate.

On the last one: I have to say, I try not to do this. Sometimes folks are in an unpleasant state due to circumstances outside of their control, and the last thing they need is a reminder that other people notice. The teenage girls aboard have no doubt already let this person know that he/she is offensive, so I try to hold my breath until I can discreetly make a move. I will admit, though, that I have (more than once) been tested beyond my ability to endure.

A (bus) class reunion

Tonight, I ran into one of my favorite classmates (and I use that term loosely, since I only attended one day out of ten) from the February bus driver class. Alan Brooks, the Seattle OG who told me about the transfer-eating passenger on the 255, drove my evening 545.

Alan is cool people, friendly and funny and helpful, which will make him one of those drivers people remember and like. Alan is also quite insightful. Case in point: On our ride, he mentioned that he’d driven the 550 earlier in the day. He called the oft-running the route “the 7 of the Eastside.” It was a very apt comparison, one I would never have thought of on my own.

For those who don’t ride either route: Both run frequently, and both have, as Bus Nerd would say, a lot of “trife”: inappropriate, insane, dramatic, or otherwise trifling behavior. (Note that “trife” can also be used as an adjective, as in, “Those girls in the back are rolling joints. That is so trife.” Looks like I’ve got another word to add to the glossary…)

One day soon, I’m going to take a ride with Alan when I’m not on my way somewhere, so we have more time to talk…maybe the next time he drives the 550.

Pittsburgh to Chicago for $1?

Yep–on Megabus. Saw this article last week:

The Chicago-based company, which began operating in a number of Midwestern cities last year, plans to launch the new service April 2 in Pittsburgh; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky. It already offers service between Chicago and Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Toledo.

“We’re really trying to get people out of their car,” Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of Coach USA, the domestic subsidiary of Scotland-based Stagecoach Group PLC, which runs Megabus. “We think that’s the real big advantage.”

A Megabus

Prices aren’t always a dollar–they’re based on how far in advance you book–but they don’t go above $43.50. That’s cheaper than most (if not all) Greyhound rides. How does Megabus keep prices so low?

Megabus uses online ticketing and sidewalk stops instead of ticket counters and bus terminals. Passengers do not buy tickets, but instead give drivers reservation numbers they receive when booking online.

The low-cost model was imported from the United Kingdom, where Stagecoach introduced a similar service nearly four years ago.

Given our comparative scarcity of major cities, I’m not optimistic that we’ll see this kind of low-cost service in the Northwest anytime soon, which is too bad. Trips this cheap might be enough incentive to get the otherwise bus averse out of their cars. And anyway: How cool would it be to take a trip to Portland or Spokane for less than the cost of a trip across town?

Still wondering

Tonight, on my 48 home from Montlake, there was a middle-aged man in the seat slightly behind me and to my right. He was on the phone with a loved one, telling the person in a strained voice not to worry, that he would make it home.

After he hung up, he began moaning softly, then loudly, and when I turned back to look at him, there were tears streaming down his face. He opened a can of something to drink (from my angle, I couldn’t see what it was) and continued to moan and cry.

The bus was rather empty, it being after 8:00 PM on a Friday, and I was one of only a few passengers near enough to this man to know anything was wrong. I turned again, trying to catch his eye, wondering if I should ask if he needed help.

But then, the bus arrived at my stop.

I got off.

A bus chick’s limits (and limitations)

To get to my office from the bus stop (or to the bus stop from my office), I have to walk a decent distance. By the correct path (which involves using the actual sidewalks the city of Redmond provides for pedestrians), it’s probably close to three quarters of a mile. But I don’t take the correct path. Like all the other 545 riders who work in my building, I take a shortcut through an empty lot that is partially paved–and partially not. This works great–except in winter, when it gets dark at 4:30, and the street-lightless evening walk requires the same headlamp I bring on my annual camping excursion to Tahoma. And except when it’s been raining a lot, and the “partially not” part turns to a sea of mud intent upon destroying the carefully maintained (and oft-repaired) shoes of any bus chick with the temerity to enter. Still, I carry the flashlights and endure the ruined shoes and stained pantlegs, all in the name of saving those few minutes that the shortcut provides.

Or at least I did.

Today, I headed home from work earlier than usual (to get back to the West Side in time for Rebecca Walker’s talk) and found myself dodging the mud puddles in the empty lot at an unfamiliar time. A time, apparently, when the actual inhabitants of the lot–geese!–enjoy their evening constitutional.

I might have mentioned my general, rather minor fear of birds. I probably haven’t mentioned a very specific terror of geese. This fear began in early childhood, when the geese at my grandpa’s farm chased and bit me any time I dared to walk past the pond. The fear is greater now than it was then. Perhaps it’s because my imagination has distorted the memory. I’m guessing it’s because a fellow bus rider recently told me that he was knocked off his feet by an angry, dive-bombing goose during a morning crossing of the shortcut lot in question.

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking the long way.

A baby bus chick with her beloved grandpa, a proud keeper of geese

Speaking of improvements…

A couple of months ago, Bus Nerd sent me his initial list of criteria for an ideal transit system. I’m just now getting around to reading it (hey–he doesn’t read my e-mail either), and I likes. Most of his suggestions are intentionally mode-agnostic, which I especially like. At this stage, there’s no sense getting distracted by the how.

1. It would be optimized for high-density areas – every part of a high-density area would be within a 5 minute walk of a transit stop.
2. High frequency visits at each stop – every 5 minutes in high-density areas, every 10 minutes on routes between cities.
3. Routes would run fairly late – in high-density areas they would run at least until midnight.
4. The system would be usable even by first-time visitors with quick inspection of a language-independent system map.
5. Routes would be unaffected by non-mass-transit traffic.
6. Transit vehicles would have no impact on the surface – high-density areas could reserve streets for security/delivery vehicles.
7. Every stop would have displays indicating next arrival times of routes and all their destinations.
8. Every stop would have a terminal that would generate an itinerary given a start and destination and optionally send it to your mobile device.
9. Mobile devices could access real-time views of the system for free and request itineraries and other trip-related information.
10. Transit hubs and crossings could lease land around stops to businesses in order to generate revenue and create convenience for riders.
11. The transit stops/system would be dry, temperate, and in general unaffected by weather conditions.
12. Every stop would be well-lit and have security mechanisms.
13. Fares would either be free or very low in cost and could be paid through a passive technology such as RFID.
14. Vehicles would provide overhead storage for large bags.
15. Routes to airports or other long-distance travel ports would have space for luggage.
16. Vehicles could accommodate 10% of the riders having personal transit vehicles such as bicycles.
17. Vehicles maximum speed would be limited only by the safety limits of the vehicle technology and not the flow of unpredictable traffic.
18. All major streets would have routes serving them.
19. The transit system would either use renewable energy or a more generic form of energy such as electricity that could be derived from solar and other renewable sources.
20. The transit system would produce very little or no atmospheric pollutants.
21. The transit system would be able to generate revenue from advertising and lease of real estate to businesses.

Some of this stuff Metro and Sound Transit have or are working toward. Some is dependent on major infrastructure changes, a few of which the city is slowly implementing. Still, we’re a long way from Bus Nerd’s vision, which I happen to think is pretty good. I can hardly think of anything to add–except a couple more that are infrastructure related:

22) Cities would severely restrict and/or heavily tax car use in areas that are served by transit.
23) Cities would control residential and commercial growth–allowing little development outside high-density areas and allowing new development only if it meets certain criteria and is supported by additional transit infrastructure.

Now, your turn. Assume the political climate and funding are there. What’s your ideal transit system?

How to make a great place even greater

Looks like it’s time for some major renovations at the Market:

City politicians hope to ask voters in November 2008 to approve a tax increase for the Market and the Seattle Center. City officials don’t yet have an estimate for the project.

“It’s recognized nationally and internationally as the heart and soul of the city,” Mayor Greg Nickels said Monday. “So it’s time, I think, for another generation to renew that commitment, renovate the physical (infrastructure) that keeps it running and put a new coat of paint on it.”


The Market also is exploring ways to ease crowding, she said — for example, whether it’s possible to add a sidewalk along the eastern edge of the Market arcade.

Here’s an “option to ease crowding”:

Remove (or severely limit) automobile traffic! The sidewalks along Pike Place are extremely narrow and usually blocked by tourists (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or street performers. I’m sure there are arguments for allowing commercial vehicles on that street, but I can’t think of a single good reason to allow through traffic. Imagine: No of weaving between parked cars or dodging traffic to get to those delectable black Russians at Three Sisters–just a leisurely stroll on a cobblestone street reserved for pedestrians.

Photo credit: Myla Kent


Calling all bus poets!

Poetry on Buses is back. This year’s theme is “Dreams.”

Poetry on Buses

4Culture and King County Metro present Poetry on Buses 2007. We are seeking poetry written by residents of King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. The theme for Poetry on Buses 2007 is Dreams. Selected poems will be displayed on interior bus placards, published in a book and featured at a poetry reading in November 2007. Selected poets will also receive an honorarium of $125 for use of the poems on the bus.


Here are the submission guidelines:

• Only one (1) poem per applicant.
• Poems must be 50 words or less not counting the title.
• Poems must be authored by the applicant and previously unpublished.
• All residents of King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties in Washington State may submit except for the following: 4Culture staff, board members or advisory committee members, selection jurors, and the immediate family members and business partners of any of the above.
• Copyright for published poems remains with the authors.
• Poems must be submitted at on or before April 30, 2007 to be eligible.

I’m no poet (leave that to Bus Nerd), but I might be inspired to submit a little something this year. I love this program!