Monthly Archives: July 2007

July Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to my hometown, Seattle, WA (aka the 2-0-sickness), which has permanently designated Third Avenue as a transit-only corridor–during peak commute hours, that is.

From a Mayor’s Office press release:

SEATTLE – Based on the outstanding success in moving buses quickly and efficiently through downtown, Mayor Greg Nickels today announced that local transit agencies will continue to use Third Avenue as a priority corridor when the transit tunnel reopens in September.

The decision to continue prioritizing bus service on Third Avenue during peak hours will allow King County Metro Transit to reorganize surface bus routes and balance transit traffic across downtown. Eighteen bus routes will move to the tunnel when it reopens.


And that’s not all. In September, when the tunnel routes return to their retrofitted home, some routes that currently run on First, Second, and Fourth avenues will be moved to Third, speeding up those routes, freeing more street space for displaced cars, and (most importantly) making it easier to bus riders to figure out where the heck to go to catch the routes they’re looking for. (For details, check out the tunnel page on Metro’s site.)

Bus-car crash
SOVs: Don’t let this happen to you.

So thanks to my city, for identifying a relatively painless way to move more people through the downtown core more quickly. Maybe one day, in the not-too-distant future, Third Avenue will be closed to cars all day.

Hey–a bus chick can dream, can’t she?

About those missing shelters…

Good news! From Dale at Metro:

We noticed…that you are interested in what became of the bus shelters in the photos…next to the Douglas Truth Library. The shelters were removed last week for refurbishing, and will be re-installed this week. All Metro bus shelters are pulled every 7 to 8 years, repainted and reinstalled w/new windows, walls, and translucent roofs. When a shelter is pulled it is usually replaced the same day or within a few days after the removal.

The terra cotta tile artwork that was in these shelters, will need additional restorative work before returning to the shelters, but should be re-installed in the shelters sometime this fall.

I am relieved to know that my shelters will soon return. Now if only we riders were provided with warnings before our shelters were removed. Something as simple as a paper rider-alert sign near the schedule would have eliminated a lot of confusion.

No shelter (or, “Dude, where’s my bus stop?”)

This morning, I walked out of my house to discover that the two bus shelters on my corner had been removed.

No more shelter for 27 riders
No more shelter for 4 and 48 riders

These were no ordinary shelters. They were spacious and attractive, with wood carvings that told the story of the community on their walls. And bus riders actually used them. A lot.

Here’s what one of them used to look like:

My friend Monique (aka Original Glamazon), waiting for the 27

So, the question is, why did Metro remove them? Are they being replaced? The last I heard, we were trying to get more shelters in King County. Why waste money replacing shelters that are perfectly functional, even pleasant? Are they being removed permanently? If so, why? At the very least, we should have seen a “rider alert” message at the stops and/or on Metro’s website.

As if the trash-can removal at our adopted stop wasn’t bad enough. What’s the deal, Metro?

How walkable is your neighborhood?

Several people sent me links to this site (thanks Robert, Elisa, and Jennifer!), and Alan Durning blogged about it:, a cool web tool that calculates the walkability of any address in the US.

What is Walk Score? Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc.

My house (which is in the Central District) got an 86 out of 100. Not bad, though I might not score it quite so high. (The folks at haven’t tried to cross my very busy street without getting hit by a careless, speeding, light-running motorist.) My father-in-law, who still lives in Bus Nerd’s childhood home in Detroit, earned a decent score of 57. My best friend Laurie (mother of Zaky) got an abysmal 22. (At least they have free buses where she lives.) My brother Jeremy, the newly minted New Yorker is the hands-down winner with an impressive score of 98. (I wonder how you get 100?)

Your turn. What’s your walkability score?

Back door!

On my way home the other day, a woman (who apparently needed to get off at 23rd & Union) waited until all the other passengers getting off at that stop had disembarked before moseying toward the back door and mumbling something inaudible in the general direction of the driver. The oblivious driver proceeded to pull away from the stop. “I want to get off,” she called out, louder this time. The bus kept moving. Before the driver had made it halfway down the block, she was screaming, “I want off! I want to get off!” at the top of her lungs. Thankfully, the driver pulled over and let her off. (My ears wouldn’t have survived the ride to Marion.)

Then, today, on my way to work, a man who got off at my stop asked for the back door so quietly (and for some reason, listlessly–it wasn’t that early), I’m surprised he heard himself. Like I said to Bus Nerd, who witnessed it with me, it was the weakest “back door” I have ever heard.

There’s something thrilling (and, for us shy types, at least, a little bit terrifying) about getting off at the back door. Will the driver notice you and open it automatically, or will you have to (gasp!) draw attention to yourself and your need to disembark? And will you be able to get the driver’s attention (along with everyone else’s), or will you find yourself stuck on board, embarrassed and forced to hoof it back to your original destination?

I’ve made something of a hobby of observing “back door” requests.

There is the casual, confident, open-sesame-style command of the experienced rider (Back door!), who never questions whether the request will be granted.

There is the red-faced, whispered entreaty (Back door?), the one that begs, “Please don’t look at me!” and apologizes for the inconvenience.

There is the polite request. (Back door, please.)

There is the shouted, indignant demand of the entitled. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Do as I say, public servant!”)

There is the shouted, indignant, demand of the panicked. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Didn’t you hear me? Please don’t drive away yet!”)

My favorite “back door” of all time, though, was by young man (who was actually trying to get on the bus) at Montlake several months ago. He stood in front of the closed doors, resigned, and muttered (more to those of us lined up behind him than to the driver), “Back door, dude.”

NYC congestion charges: an update

Robert I. (aka Neat Engine), New York native and former Seattle grad student, sent me this update (from the Times City Blog) on the city/state discussion about congestion pricing in Manhattan:

Journalists, advocacy groups and residents on both sides of the issues have been struggling to make sense of the congestion pricing agreement reached in Albany on Thursday.

On one hand, the deal at the very least seems to keep Mr. Bloomberg’s idea of charging drivers in Manhattan alive. It may even allow the city to begin taking steps to begin putting such charges in place.

On the other the plan hardly means congestion pricing is a done deal. A 17-member commission of city and state representatives will study different ways to mitigate traffic — not limited to congestion pricing — and act by March.

Streetsblog‘s take:

Congestion Pricing: What’s the Deal?

Nobody knows whether the convoluted and difficult congestion pricing “deal” reached by political leaders yesterday will actually result in anything. The deal is complex even by Albany standards. A few things, however, are clear:

1. Mayor Bloomberg does not have a “green light” to move forward with congestion pricing, nor has he been granted any new powers. The deal denies him the authority to impose a pricing charge until approved by the City Council and state legislature.

2. The feds may still yet give New York City congestion pricing start-up funds despite the missed Monday deadline.

3. The deal mandates a very specific timeline by which the process will move forward and a 17-member commission that may become an important forum for the congestion pricing and and broader transportation debate, good things could emerge.

4. Transportation policy and livable streets issues have moved to the top of New York City’s civic agenda and will remain in the political spotlight for some time to come.

5. There are a ton of things that could still derail congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, London, a congestion-pricing pioneer, is raising some of its charges. According to Carbusters magazine, SUVs (called “4x4s” and, occasionally, “Chelsea tractors,” in England) might soon have to pay as much as 25 pounds per day to drive into the city.

MLKC Metro, part II

I saw this on a 43 while I waited at Montlake this evening:

My hero on the bus

It’s not the first time I’ve seen the new county logo on a bus, but it’s the first time I’ve been able to get a picture. I dropped my camera at the Bus to Work Day celebration back in March (good thing I won a bike to compensate), so I can only get pictures if Bus Nerd is with me and the lighting is good enough for him to use his phone. But I digress.

I can’t wait until I finally get to ride on a Dr. King bus. With the exception of my phone-camera-toting husband (well, and maybe Original Bus Chick), there’s no one I’d rather travel with.

NYC: the congestion-pricing debate continues

Mayor Bloomberg is still pushing hard for congestion-pricing in New York. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the state legislature will approve his plan in time for the city to receive a $500 million federal traffic-reduction grant. From the Associated Press:

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to choose up to three cities for pilot programs to combat traffic and pollution, providing up to $500 million for each winner to implement the plan… New York state Senate leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, says Monday is the federal government’s “drop-dead date” for New York to commit itself to Bloomberg’s proposal.


Supporters of Bloomberg’s plan argue that hard choices are required for New York City’s future. They also cite the immediate benefits: Clearing the air in “hot spots” that threaten children’s health; reducing traffic congestion in a choked Manhattan striving to remain the world’s financial epicenter; and the lure of up to $500 million in federal funds. The Bloomberg administration predicts that street traffic would decrease by 6 percent in lower Manhattan during the three-year pilot project as more people use public transit.

But approval of Bloomberg’s plan in Albany will likely require deft diplomacy, bipartisan cooperation and a thick skin in a Legislature long criticized as slow, dysfunctional and ruled absolutely by each chamber’s majority party: Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the Assembly.

It would be a shame for the city to lose out on that money, especially since, according to Bloomberg, $300 million of it would be used to fund immediate transit improvements.

New York Legislature: Take it from a resident of a city that’s lost it’s share of federal transportation funds: You want this money.

A Friday of firsts

On the 48 this morning, I sat behind a father who was taking his preschool-age son on the bus for the first time. The two of them seemed to be having a great time: the son, excited about the bell, the big seats, the beeping of bus passes as they slid through the reader; the father, happy to answer his son’s questions about what was what and why, chuckling at the boy’s occasional outbursts (That’s a big truck!/Did a bad guy mess up that building?/Three blue cars!). It was a beautiful father-son bonding experience–that is, until, about three stops from Montlake, when an average-sized, middle-aged man got on, and the little boy shouted, in the same excited tone he’d used to point out the truck, “Ooh! Look at that big fat guy!”

On my next ride, I experienced a parenting first of my own: 25 weeks into my pregnancy, on a standing-room only bus, someone actually offered me a seat. (I didn’t take it, since I felt able to stand.) Of course I was grateful but also, for some odd reason, embarrassed. It’s strange to be on the other end of that offer.