Monthly Archives: April 2007

Tax reform

From Rodney in Denver:

I’ve been thinking of ways to get more people to use mass transit. I thought making transit passes tax deductible would be a good idea… I’m curious what your thoughts are on this idea?

Well Rodney, having just finished my own taxes, I think it’s a pretty darn good one. There’s a deduction for people who buy hybrids; there’s mileage credit for folks who drive for business purposes; there’s even a sales tax deduction for major purchases (like cars and boats). Why no love for transit types?

I think the trick is in the implementation. A deduction for buying a transit pass wouldn’t be very substantial (given that the cost of passes isn’t very substantial) and therefore wouldn’t provide much of an incentive to buy one. If the deduction was much more than the cost of the pass (in other words, closer to the social benefit of driving less), we’d have to require folks to prove that they actually rode.

Soon, most transit systems will have the technology to measure actual transit usage, and we’ll be able to reward (through tax breaks and other fabulous prizes) frequent riders. Until then, I’ll take the transit-pass deduction. And the free food at transit fests.

This week in transit: bus-related news

Metro’s oldest driver is 80. He drives the 2.

Linda Thielke, spokeswoman for Metro, said Minard “has a pretty good driving record, with only minor accidents, really minor, like losing a side mirror.”

That’s more than I can say for the guy who drove my inbound 17 on Thursday night. That driver, who was nowhere near 80, was happy to share the details of his tickets and a recent accident (the reason he “doesn’t have to worry about working overtime”) with the passenger sitting in the seat adjacent to his. As if his erratic driving wasn’t reason enough to worry. (Source: Seattle Times)

• Starting late this spring, Community Transit will begin operating a double-decker bus, to “ease the crowds on commuter routes from Snohomish County to the Eastside and downtown Seattle.” I’d certainly like to ride on a double-decker bus (if only for the coolness factor), but I’ve always thought they seemed a bit unstable. How do they compare to the articulated buses that are so popular here? Are the double deckers more efficient, safer, or roomier? (Source:

• Metro’s giving free rides on Earth Day.

Any time on Earth Day [Sunday, April 22nd], anywhere in King County, bus rides are free for everyone. There is no need to worry about transferring from Metro to Sound Transit, Community Transit or Pierce Transit bus service, either. All of those agencies are also marking Earth Day by offering free rides.

Like I said last year: Earth Day is a great day to be a bus chick. (Source: Transportation Today)

Time to step it up!

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 14th, folks across this fair land will participate in Step it Up, 2007, “a day of community events across the U.S. where citizens will demand political action on climate change.”

From Grist‘s invitation:

Uncle Sam says...

Who: You, and everyone you know
What: Rallies, parties, parades, sit-ins, hikes, climbs, dives, and much more
When: Saturday, April 14, 2007
Where: More than 1,000 spots around the U.S.
Why: Because it’s getting hot in here

Here in Seattle, the main event is an all-city march that starts at 2:00 PM at Occidental Park, a very bus-chick-friendly (read: bus accessible) location. The mayor, County Kingpin, et al will be there.

Marching not your thing? Here’s a list of all the events in the area.

Eastbound 4, 10:40 PM

A young woman, to a male friend: “I got two new diagnoses, on top of the three I already have: OCD and agoraphobia.”

Male friend: “Really? But you seem so normal.”

Young woman: “That’s the problem; most crazies do.”

27+17=bus-friendly music

Tonight, my friend Coby is performing at Conor Byrne in Ballard. (He’s opening for Ali Marcus, who’s celebrating the release of her most recent CD.) Coby’s show starts at 8, and the first song in his set is going to be about–I’ll give you moment to take a guess–the bus!

Bus Chick's favorite rock star


And he was already my favorite rock star–OK, except for Prince.

If Seattle got cheaper, the planet might get cooler

Yesterday, BeyondChron had an interesting piece about the connection between climate change and affordable housing. Some excerpts:

Despite the media focusing largely on climate change strategies like ethanol and composting, combating sprawl appears to be one of the efforts offering the most bang for the buck. For starters, cars produce almost a third of the carbon emitted in America. Allowing people to live close to their jobs, grocery stores, parks and schools means dramatically shortened commute times and significantly reduced carbon emissions.

In addition, increasing density means taking advantage of public infrastructure already in place. Rather than extending sewer, water, road and electric [and transit!] systems farther and farther away from the city center, using the already existing systems increases their efficiency and reduces the need for more resources to expand them.


As demand increases for urban housing, costs go up, often dramatically in many places in recent years. While cities may have won the battle in bringing people in, they’ve also succeeded in forcing people out. Low-income and working-class people in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York keep moving farther and farther away from their jobs, making sprawl worse, not better.

This article is right on time. Growth management must include a strong focus on in-city, affordable housing. Without it, we’ll never create a transit- (or, for that matter, people-) friendly region.

Busing, bumpers, buttons, backpacks, and beliefs

Waiting in line to board my bus home this evening, I stood behind a guy with a backpack covered in buttons. Some examples of the messages:

“Consume less. Share more.”
“Be nice to mice: Don’t test on them.”
“I’m not a lesbian, but I hate men.”

The first two were pretty straightforward. I have no idea what the third was supposed to mean, but it kept my mind occupied until it was my turn to get on. Which led me to this conclusion: Backpack buttons are a bus rider’s equivalent to bumper stickers.

Bumper stickers, you see, serve two primary purposes:

1) To entertain and distract bored drivers who are stuck in traffic.
2) To provide a vehicle (pardon the pun) for car owners to share their beliefs (and biases) with strangers.

Backpack buttons serve similar purposes for transit riders. They entertain and distract bored riders (of which, of course, there are very few) who are stuck waiting at stops, and they allow us to use our “portable bumpers” to declare our positions to anyone who happens to get stuck behind us. As if the bus chick bag didn’t already have enough uses.

While we’re on the subject of bumper stickers…

Heidi from Redmond sent me this a couple of weeks back:

The Concourse of Hypocrisy: A cavalcade of gas-guzzling contemporary automobiles with hypocritical bumper stickers

My favorite example from the site:

Be green


Calling folks out like this isn’t usually my flavor (it seems less than constructive), but the point is valid. I know I’ve made note of similarly baffling righteousness a time (or fifty).

Flexcar plans to double its fleet

I missed the big press conference on Friday (dang day job!), but KOMO didn’t. Check out this report.

Facts of note:

• The average shared car removes 15 private cars from the road.
• The average Flexcar user spends $85 per month (I spend significantly less) on car use, while the average private car costs $700 a month.
• Flexcar, which started (and is based) in Seattle, now has a presence in 10 cities, including Portland, San Francisco, and L.A.

Did I mention they have Mini Coopers?

Some updates to those glossary entries

It seems that some “bus friends” are friendlier than others. From Dan in Bellevue*:

Thought I should mention that a “bus buddy” is not the same as a “bus friend” as I found out a couple years ago. I had gotten on a bus on a rainy day riding through south Seattle (the 174 I think) and had on my black bicycle rain pants. A guy who I presumed was mentally challenged got on and sat down in the seat in front of me. He glanced over his shoulder a few times, and eventually asked me if I would be his “bus friend.” Well, there seemed no harm in that so I said OK. So he moved to the seat next to me. I thought we were about to have a conversation, but then I felt a hand on my knee. [After I corrected him, he said] “Sorry,” …but didn’t get up from the seat. … I realized I may have just gotten a taste of what women go through when they get hit on. In any case, I resolved to wear my rain pants less often.

* I removed some of Dan’s dialogue, but I think (I hope) I stayed true to his point.


In case I didn’t make it clear in my original definition, “trife” is not solely used to describe insane behavior on buses; it has many transit applications. For example, it is often used to describe people who are routinely late for the bus (and the behavior that causes them to be routinely late for the bus). This behavior can be unintentional (the result of oversleeping or underestimating time needs) or intentional (relying on the lateness of buses to plan one’s schedule**). The next time you are late to work for one of these reasons, don’t bother to offer a long explanation. Just say, “I was trife this morning and missed the bus.” Or, if you’d prefer to use the word as a noun: “Trife caused me to miss the bus.”

**One day I dedicate an entire post to this phenomenon.

Maybe Busfather meditates

On my way home tonight, I rode on the bus of a driver who had clearly had enough. One too many times, someone had flashed him an expired transfer, or put the wrong amount of change in the fare box, or just walked on by without paying at all. Tonight, he wasn’t having it. Twice between Union and Cherry, the (not small) driver stood, got in a non-paying passenger’s face, and screamed these exact words:


(Note that I was on the 48, a route that doesn’t come for 30+ minutes and then shows up in packs of three, so there was actually a bus directly behind him.)

I have to give him credit for one thing: The folks he screamed at paid their fares. (With good reason. The man was moments from going postal.) And certainly, as a former high school teacher who understands the importance of enforcing rules fairly and does not enjoy being disrespected, I am quite familiar with his frustration.


When your frustration is at such a high level that you routinely engage in outbursts that humiliate transgressors, frighten all of your passengers, and put you at risk of an instant heart attack, and when your method of enforcing rules involves passing the problem on to the unsuspecting driver behind you, it’s probably time to seek another profession.