Monthly Archives: August 2007

August Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to Pierre Sunborg, a retired engineer who has made an actual hobby of riding the bus.

Pierre was interviewed on The Beat last Friday (good lookin’ out, Sarah). If you have time, listen to it–if for no other reason than to find proof that I’m not the only one who thinks riding the bus is fun.

A former world traveler, Pierre found himself Seattle-bound several years ago when his parents began to require full-time care. His wife encouraged him to try riding the 74, a route she had been instrumental in defining during her days as president of the Uptown (neighborhood) Alliance (and incidentally, the route Busfather drives on Wednesdays). The 74 just happens to be a route that requires passengers to have an NOAA pass to travel beyond a specific point on Sand Point Way, and, not surprisingly, the ride piqued Pierre’s interest in Metro.

These days, Pierre is in the middle of an ambitious project: riding every route in Metro’s system, from end-to-end, in order. Right now, he’s in the 100s. One of the things Pierre has learned from his Metro adventures is that you don’t have to go far from home to travel. Some routes he likes:

The 75, for the nice, long ride. It goes from the UW north along Lake Washington almost to the Snohomish County line, then east across the city to Ballard.

The 33, for the scenery. In the fall, he likes the ride to Discovery Park.

The 2, also for the scenery. It goes from Queen Anne all the way to the lovely beach at Madrona Park. (Because I know you all love Busfather as much as I do: The 2 is one of his former routes.)

The 60, for the variety of people. According to Pierre, the folks who ride come from all over the world. (I find that this is true of many buses, but now, I’ll have to check out the 60 and sample its flavor.)

So thanks, Pierre, for the inspiration and information (I’m going to ride the 75 and 60 ASAP). I’m still down to try the Night Owl routes if you are.

Transportation safety

Safety first!In my last post, I mentioned that Bus Nerd recently (last weekend, in fact) took a trip to Chicago. As is our custom, I “saw him off” by accompanying him on the bus ride to the airport. Unfortunately, Bus Nerd’s departing flight left at 11:30 PM, which meant, of course, that I’d miss the last 194 and would be returning home–after dark, no less–on its ugly steproute, the 174.

It’s not like me to be skittish about riding at night (I happen to love it, as long as I don’t have to wait at isolated stops or walk long distances), or for that matter, about any particular route. Sure, there are some routes I don’t care for, but I have yet to encounter one that inspires fear. And yet, for some reason I can’t name, last Thursday, I was feeling nervous about riding the 174 late at night, alone. (I choose to blame it on my condition, which makes me conspicuous, messes with my state of mind, prevents me from running–at least from running fast–and generally makes me feel like a big, waddling target.)

I decided to go, despite my misgivings. (What’s a minor case of nerves compared to a lovely, romantic bus tradition?) After I said goodbye to Bus Nerd, I joined the crowd of airport workers, returning travelers, smokers, and generally trife people waiting at the Seatac bus stop. Within minutes, I spotted a familiar face: none other than Mr. Clato Barnes, an elder at my church who also happens to work for TSA. Mr. Barnes lives in my neighborhood and was waiting for the 174, too. I didn’t say hi (wanted to let him read his paper in peace), but his presence helped me relax–and remember why I don’t fear buses, no matter what time of night I ride:

The folks riding with me may be strangers, but one of those strangers is an elder at someone’s church. Another is someone’s grandfather, neighbor, or best friend. Yes, there are occasionally troublemakers who make it less-than-pleasant to ride, but among my community of fellow passengers, I always feel safe.

Things that might confuse a Metro newbie (or, “Because we said so!”)

If you catch a northbound 43 at 23rd & John, you pay as you leave; however, if you catch a northbound 48 at 23rd & John, you pay as you enter. Similarly, if you catch an eastbound 545 at the Montlake Freeway Station, you pay as you leave, but if you catch the (much slower) 242 from the same location, and headed in the same direction, you’ll have to pay as you enter.

If you catch a southbound 48 at Montlake (the street-level stop) at 6:39 PM, it will take you all the way to Rainier Beach. If you catch a southbound 48 at Montlake at 6:53 PM, it will take you only as far as Columbia City.

The eastbound 3 from downtown goes all the way to 34th and Union…except when it terminates at 21st and Cherry.

Metro’s Trip Planner includes Sound Transit routes in its itineraries. Metro’s Tracker can tell you where any Sound Transit route is at any given moment. But, if you search for a Sound Transit schedule on Metro’s site, you will get a message telling you it doesn’t have that information; check Sound Transit’s website.

Of course, those of us who take pride in our transit geekdom know which routes originate downtown (and are therefore “pay as you leave”), or, at least, to check the sign by the fare box when we get on (better have the fare ready, just in case). We also know where to go to find the route and schedule information we need, and that the destination on the front of the bus is far more important than the number, even though we can’t explain why there aren’t different numbers for routes that go to different places.

But can we really expect newcomers and bus virgins to try this hard?

Bus Nerd recently took a short trip to Chicago and got around just fine (by using the system maps and information at stops and stations), without ever making a call, checking a website, or asking a driver. As I’ve mentioned before, much as I love taking the bus around here, we could use a little help in the “discoverability” department.

Survey says…

Councilmember Bob Ferguson, of April Golden Transfer fame, recently surveyed his District 1 constituents about their priorities. (District 1 includes North Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and some of Woodinville.) Here’s what they had to say about transit:

2. If you are a bus rider, what is the most important way that Metro can improve bus service?

37% More, different routes
29% Greater Frequency
11% Fewer transfers to get where we’re going
11% Safer, cleaner buses
7% More bus shelters
5% Reduced fares


3. When paying for improvements to our transit system, which methods would you support?

29% An increase in the gas tax.
26% Tolls on certain freeway and thoroughfare lanes.
24% An increase in the motor vehicle excise tax.
12% None.
9% An increase in the sales tax.

4. In November, a two-part transportation funding proposal may be on the ballot. The first proposal will primarily include funding to help repair or replace the 520 Bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and expand Interstate 405. The second proposal may fund an extension of Sound Transit’s Light Rail to Lynnwood, Bellevue and Pierce County. For one part of the proposal to pass, both parts must pass. The specific costs are unknown at this time, but could be as much as $250 annually per-average household for 25-30 years. Please select which one of these options best represents your position.

46% I support the combined roads and transit ballot measure.
19% I do not support either.
19% I support the second ballot measure (Sound Transit).
16% I support the first ballot measure (roads projects).

Visit Councilmember Ferguson’s site for his assessment of the results.

District 1 is primarily suburban, and suburban residents are likely to have different transit needs and priorities than city types. How would you have answered these questions?

Drive less, but park more

It looks like New York got its federal grant ($354.5 million–oh, if only!), with a few strings. Here’s how the money is supposed to be used:

• $10.4 million to implement congestion pricing
• $213.6 million for bus facilities and other improvements
• $112.7 million to begin Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• $15.8 million for regional ferry service
• $2 million for research

The funding from the USDOT is conditioned on actions by the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. Congestion pricing must be approved within 90 days of the opening of the next session of the New York State Legislature, allowing congestion pricing to begin no later than March 31, 2009.

(For details, check out Streetsblog’s full post.)

Unfortunately, not all branches of the federal government are working to get folks out of their cars. From today’s New York Times:

This week, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] announced $848 million in grants to help cities discourage people from driving, in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees.

But at the same time, another arm of the federal government seems to be sending a very different message. Congress provides a tax break to many of those same drivers to help them shoulder the costs of taking their cars to work.

Close to 400,000 commuters nationwide — about half of them in the New York City area — take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code that allows them to use up to $215 a month in pre-tax wages to pay for their parking at work, according to executives at corporate benefits firms that specialize in administering the tax break.

Talk about your mixed messages. I’m still waiting for the tax break for bus chicks.

Westbound 27 stop, 3:05 PM

A young woman is waiting for the bus with an older woman and a little girl (possibly her mother and daughter). All are reading books just checked out from the library. After a few minutes of not talking, the young woman points to the bus stop across the street.

Young woman, to older woman: “Remember that fight I was telling you about? That’s where it happened.”

Older woman: “Oh yeah?”

YM: “She had the bombest Air Forces, and Lee stepped on them. So she was like, ‘Lee, aren’t you going to say excuse me?’ Lee said ‘no,’ so she got her a** whooped right there at the number 8 bus stop. The ambulance had to come.” [YM chuckles] “I enjoyed it.”

Westbound 545, 7:30-ish

Two men are discussing a recent dental appointment.

Guy 1: “She said they were all abscessed. All 18 of those teeth are bad. She could’ve pulled them all today, and I wouldn’t have cared.”

Guy 2: “Why didn’t she?”

Guy 1: “She wanted to make sure I could pay for it. If you can’t pay, they won’t do anything.”

Guy 2: “It’s just as well, though. You would’ve been walking around with half your grill missing.”

Bus reading

Some of the many books I’ve seen folks reading on buses (and at stops) of late:

10,000 Splendid Suns

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

Clan of the Cave Bear (I’m ashamed to admit I read this when I was 12.)

The Color of Magic

Diatoms to Dinosaurs: The Size and Scale of Living Things

The Dispossessed (It’s been a minute since I’ve read Le Guin.)


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (times a bazillion)

Hackers and Painters

The Namesake

The Sun Also Rises

Witch Gate

I’m busy reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by the late Jane Jacobs. I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, an inspiring book (loaned to me, once again, by my friend Donna) that made me look forward to my bus rides–more than usual, that is–so I could get back to it already. It’s about Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, and one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to learn about. My next bus book will almost certainly be a novel. (I’ve earned it after three straight nonfiction selections.)

What’s your current bus read?