Monthly Archives: May 2007

The making of a bus chick

For Jerome–born May 15, 1939

I was just one of your children. I wasn’t the oldest and I wasn’t a son. Wasn’t good at sports or confident enough to impress you. I was just one of your children, but you were my hero. The man to whom all others have been compared–none ever as brave, as smart, as strong.

How many days did I watch you bolt your soggy cereal and grab your briefcase, sprinting up the alley to a world I wished I knew? That world symbolized courage and independence, and everything I wanted to be. To be included in it was an honor beyond measure.

On the days we rode together–you carrying my heavy backpack along with your briefcase as we hurried to make up for your lateness–I had you all to myself. We discussed the stories you read in the newspaper, what I was learning in school. When I talked, you would cock your head to one side and look right at me, nodding seriously as if my opinions mattered, as if you had never before heard such profound ideas.

On the days I rode alone, I did my best to show I was worthy of the honor. Bus tickets in the pocket of my red cardigan sweater, I watched carefully out the window for my stop, remembering to ring the bell to let the driver know I wanted off. Two blocks to 3rd and Pine, to the number 2. Hold on to the transfer–pay as you leave. Then off at the school, hoping the other children would see me–infinitely more worldly and sophisticated, able to get where I was going without the assistance of an adult.

Twenty-seven years later, I still feel worldly and sophisticated when I climb the steps of a city bus. Twenty-seven years later, I still think of you every time I do.

Baby Bus Chick and Daddy Bus ChickBus Chick and Daddy Bus Chick

Transit in the news

1) An ad against buses–on a bus.

The political ad shows a Rapid transit bus that has morphed into a pig. It’s eating money and spewing pollution.

“This pig stinks!” it reads in bold letters.

What is most surprising is the venue — it soon will appear on the back of a Rapid bus.

A group paid $290 to place the 21-by-72-inch ad on the bus for a month to show its opposition to a transit system millage campaign.

(Source: Grand Rapid Press, via Mass Transit magazine)

2) Chicago businesses request higher taxes to increase investment in transit.

The state must give the Regional Transportation Authority the power to raise additional revenue, including increasing the sales tax and levying a gasoline tax of up to 5 percent per gallon, the business-backed civic group Chicago Metropolis 2020 said.

“This is a group of business people standing up and saying, ‘We’re willing to push for additional taxes, including a gas tax.’ This is very significant,” said George Ranney Jr., Chicago Metropolis’ president and CEO.


“Action is needed this legislative session to prevent further damage to the region’s economy and global competitiveness,” the group’s executive council said in the letter and position paper, which were obtained by the Tribune.

(Source:Chicago Tribune, via Mass Transit)

Speaking of superheroes…

A couple of Wednesdays ago, I met Tom Bakker, also known as the Human Bus Schedule. If you’ve watched Evening Magazine anytime in the past decade, you probably already know who the Human Bus Schedule is. (Apparently, they taped a show with him in 1996 and have repeated it 23 times since.) Me? I hadn’t heard of him until Charlie Tiebout (of February Golden Transfer fame) introduced us over e-mail.

It all started back in the day, when Metro was still Seattle Transit, and six-year old Tom wanted to try riding the bus. First, he asked his parents if he could take it from their Capitol Hill home to his elementary school. (Hey! That’s how my bus obsession got started.) Being the cool (and highly intelligent) parents that they were, they said yes.

After Tom had proved himself able to get to and from school without incident, he expanded his bus repertoire, buying all-day passes on the weekends so he could explore the city. It wasn’t long before he started memorizing schedules. (Some kids put together puzzles or model trains; budding transit geeks study bus schedules.) And memorize he did. He quickly mastered all the routes in the Seattle Transit system.

These days, Tom still lives on Capitol Hill, only now he rides the bus to work and has memorized the schedule for every Metro and Sound Transit route in existence. (Seriously. I tested him.) He has never owned a car, and, like most transit geeks, can get almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest on the bus. Unlike most transit geeks, he can tell you how to do it (including which routes to catch, transfer locations, and wait times) without consulting a single reference. (Maybe we should call him the “Human Trip Planner.”)

But it doesn’t stop there. Tom knows the routes so well that he helps new drivers (or experienced drivers trying to qualify to drive more routes) learn them. Once, he applied for a job to be a rider information specialist, but he was told he was overqualified. (Folks at Metro: I’d certainly like to talk to someone like Tom the next time I call 553-3000.) Instead, he helps the guests at the hotel where he works and volunteers his time at the Washington State Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When Tom visits a new city, studies the transit system ahead of time so he doesn’t have to rent a car. His favorite US city for transit? Why New York, of course. And speaking of Tom’s favorites…

His all-time favorite bus route is the 209 to North Bend because of the great views. (I’ve never ridden that route, but I will now–especially since my bus-driver-class classmate, Alan Brooks, agrees about the views.) Tom’s favorite in-city route is the 2. Not a bad choice. I have a soft spot in my heart for that route, since it’s the bus I used to ride to school, and–while we’re on the subject of superheroes–Busfather used to drive it.

Tom Bakker, the Human Bus Schedule
HBS at The Crumpet Shop: one Seattle institution, kickin’ it at another

Saw it. Loved it.

My favorite part (besides meeting the man himself): Transitman’s version of the bus chick bag:

Transitman's briefcase
Why didn’t I think of including a flask?

(You will note that our hero is a Real Change reader.)

I also loved the photographs and the comic panels, but I don’t have good pictures of either. Plus, if I show you everything, you won’t have an incentive to see the exhibit–and you need to. It’s worth the trip. It was even worth missing the first half of the Mavericks-Warriors game.

Speaking of the 14…

On its way from downtown to Mount Baker, this well-used route happens to pass SOIL gallery. And SOIL gallery just so happens to be hosting an exhibit by former Sound Transit artist-in-residence Christian French, also known as Transitman.

Here’s how Transitman describes his project:

A meditation on the power of choice, and the ramifications of its exercise, this project expresses some of my assumptions about the hidden capacities we all have to make a difference in the world. Every act has infinite consequence. Even a simple choice like how you commute. We have the power to shape the world through our thought, speech or actions. Awakening to this potential is both liberating and unnerving. If you truly believed that you could save the world, would you do what it would take? Even if it meant walking around town in brightly colored Spandex? Careful how you answer…

And here’s Transitman:

It's a's a plane...
Photo credit: Julie Ross

Finally, a superhero a bus chick can get behind! (No Batmobiles necessary.) Seriously, judging from his website, this is a thoughtful and interesting (not to mention talented) person. The exhibit opens tonight (First Thursday) and runs through June 3rd. Go see this, people!

Eastbound 14, 3:45 PM

High-school girl 1: “It’s a dinner. I’m getting in free or I wouldn’t be going. They called and asked if I wanted fish or chicken.”

HSG 2: “Fish!”

HSG 1: “Please! You don’t know what the fish looks like. You can’t just say ‘fish’ over the phone like that. Chick-en.”