Monthly Archives: September 2007

September Golden Transfer

Golden Transfer This month’s Golden Transfer goes to Sustainable Ballard, a four-year old organization that promotes sustainable practices within its community, with the goal of making Ballard the “first US town [not to nitpick, but I thought it was a neighborhood] to become energy independent.”

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, this weekend SB hosted its annual sustainability festival in Ballard Commons Park. This year, they added something new: a fun, clever (and, I’m hoping, effective) program to get Ballardites (Ballardians?) out of their cars: Undriving Ballard. The program encouraged participants to commit to changing their transportation habits (read: drive less) for the month of October. In return, they received: support and information, free Metro bus tickets, an “Udrivers License,” and, as I mentioned Friday, the admiration of all the good-looking people at the fest.

Undriver licensing booth at Sustainable Ballard
Me, signing up for an undriver license (big coat is obscuring Bus Baby)
Unfortunately, I had to crop the bottom of this very cool sign, due to an item Bus Nerd was carrying that kept obscuring the camera lense.
Undrivers having fun at the fest
Fulvio and Julia, SB volunteers and committed undrivers

Here are Bus Nerd’s and my undriver licenses, which we plan to show the next time we hit up a club or concert:

Note that I was far too dignified to take advantage of the props they had available for pictures. Bus Nerd? Not so much.

Undriving Ballard was a hit. I was impressed by the idea and the implementation, and I wasn’t the only one. There was a line at the Undriver Licensing booth all afternoon on Saturday.

So, thanks Sustainable Ballard, for motivating more folks to try alternatives to driving, and, especially, for demonstrating your concern for the earth by taking action in your community.

Another bus-chick-friendly weekend event (or, First Ballard, then the world!)

Sustainable Ballard’s annual festival is happening this weekend at Ballard Commons Park (17, 18, 44). It’s all about celebrating sustainability and educating folks about how to “live more lightly on the earth.” Last year, I gave a short talk at the festival’s transportation tent about my experience living without a car. This year, SB’s making car-free advocacy a major focus of the festival, with “Undriving Ballard: A place for people to explore alternatives to car travel, and get inspired to make an Undriving Pledge.”

I’m going to be there, sharing some of my knowledge and learning from others…maybe you?

P.S. – If you “undrive” to the festival, you’ll receive, in addition to the admiration of all the good-looking people attending, two free bus tickets from our friends at Metro.

Still more reasons to get on the bus

1) On September 21st, city residents across the country returned parking spaces to the people. From

Conceived by REBAR, a San Francisco-based art collective, PARK(ing) Day is a one-day, global event centered in San Francisco where artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to temporarily transform parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks.

StreetFilms posted a couple of videos:

Park(ing) Day, NYC
Park(ing) Day, San Fran

2) Sprawl counteracts fuel efficiency gains. From the Detroit Free Press:

An expected 59% increase in the number of miles Americans drive between 2005 and 2030 will outpace any reduction in greenhouse gases from better fuel efficiency of cars and trucks, said a report issued Thursday.

If there is any hope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a key component of greenhouse gases, the nation needs to slow sprawl and build more compact housing, such as lofts atop commercial buildings in downtowns and taller buildings on less land, the report said. It was compiled by the Urban Land Institute and issued by the Michigan Environmental Council.

Smart Growth America has the full report.

And on a related note…

3) A new study by the APTA finds that:

…when compared to other household actions that limit carbon dioxide (CO2,), taking public transportation can be more than ten times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.


The research points out that due to increases in vehicle miles traveled, the problem of pollution from vehicle emissions is accelerating. Greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources have grown 27 percent from 1990 to 2004. Autos and light duty trucks represent about 61 percent of the total mobile source of greenhouse gas emissions. The report says single occupancy drivers switching their work commute to public transportation is one of the more effective ways to reduce the nation’s vehicle miles traveled while reducing harmful carbon dioxide.

Speaking of work commutes…

Tomorrow I’m going to try out the Connector. It doesn’t stop anywhere that’s convenient for me (and plus, I’m happy with my current bus commute), but I want to see what it’s all about. I’ll report back.

Bus tunnel’s back in business

Yesterday, I hit up the tunnel reopening celebration at Westlake Park.

The first person I ran into was Josh, an old acquaintance from my college days who now works for the city. He was there representing the S.L.U.T.

Josh, SLU trolley representative

Which reminds me: We haven’t had a discussion about this controversial transportation project yet. I’d be happy to entertain opinions now, if anyone’s interested. But I digress.

Next, I ran into my favorite transit planner, Jack, who was, per usual, ready with answers to all my “which route will take me…?” questions. He also had a Metro hat with the cool, new county logo. How can I be down, Jack?

Jack, a super-smart transit planner

Inside the tunnel was cool, too.

Bus tunnel: mural at Westlake stop
Inside the bus tunnel

The light rail signs were getting me hype.

Bus tunnel: light rail sign

Here’s one of the warnings about the mirrors:

Bus tunnel mirror warning
Danger Alert: Low Bus Mirrors

To be real, though: Despite the cool murals and shiny, clean floors, I have to say, I find the bus tunnel a bit boring. I still don’t understand why Metro and Sound Transit don’t rent out commercial space in there (and, for that matter, at other major stops and transit centers). As a bus rider, I’d love to spend my wait (and, on occasion, my money) at a bus-stop-adjacent newsstand or sandwich shop. Even a convenience store (forgot to buy toilet paper? in need of some Excedrin?) would do.

But even more important than my personal comfort and convenience is the prospect of our transit agencies earning lots of revenue from rents. Maybe then the 27 could run more often and the 194 could run later. OK, so we’re back to my personal comfort and convenience, but hey–a bus chick can dream.

Eastbound 4, 3:10 PM

Two middle-aged men, who are apparently acquaintances, are making conversation in the back of the bus. One of them takes a drink from a bottle of pop.

Middle-aged man #1: This tastes just like that orange ice cream we used to have back in the day–you know, with the cream in the middle? [Pause] “Want some?”

MAM #2: “No thanks, man.”

MAM #1: “Come on–have a taste! I don’t have any germs. Got a little cancer, but no germs.”

A third man, 10-15 years younger, gets on and joins the conversation. As the bus passes the new city hall, he gestures toward the building.

Young man: “I heard they have a misdemeanor jail up there.

MAM #1 (shrugging): “Jail’s jail.”

YM, gesturing toward the county jail: “I’d rather be in a misdemeanor jail than in there. I was in there for three weeks for a DV… My cellie had killed two people. I was like, ‘I don’t belong in this joint. We were just arguing!'”

Westbound 27, 3:15 PM

A group of teenage boys in the back of the bus is discussing the Kanye-50 sales battle. Eventually the talk turns to battles at bit closer to home.

Teenage boy 1, to the rest of the group: “If you mess up my t-shirt or step on my shoes, that’s like pushing me in front of my girl: real disrespectful.”

Transportation safety, part III

Real Change editor Adam Hyla has an interesting article about the bus tunnel in this week’s issue. Apparently, some drivers are concerned that the light-rail-focused engineering adjustments are not ideal for buses.

The problems can be summed up by a measurement: 14 inches, the height from the light rail tracks embedded in the road to each station’s platform. That height makes for a nearly even transition between the floor of the trains (which don’t arrive until 2009) and the station platform.

But Metro’s diesel-electric hybrid buses ride lower than the trains. So, to make bus floors approximately the same height as the platform, Metro poured a four-inch-high concrete bank sloping up the road bed to the curb. As they approach their stops, bus drivers must negotiate this bank, steering their right wheels up it sidelong and onto a lip. Their 60-foot coaches need to come within six inches of the curb.


The 14-inch platform height also means that the buses’ right-hand mirrors sit at a height of about five and half feet — extending over the passenger area — within striking distance of any unsuspecting commuter.

The likelihood of a person getting hit by a bus mirror seems pretty slight (especially given the precautionary measures that Metro GM Kevin Desmond discusses in the article), but the concrete bank is an issue worth keeping an eye on. Those of you who ride bus-tunnel routes regularly: Keep me posted!

Good news for Water Taxi riders

The season, which usually ends September 30th, has been extended through October. From a Metro press release:

Due to anticipated record ridership and higher than expected revenues, King County Metro Transit will extend service on the Water Taxi through the month of October. The extended service will be offered on weekdays only and serve commuters traveling between West Seattle’s Seacrest Dock and Pier 55 along the downtown Seattle waterfront. The Water Taxi had been scheduled to wrap up its 10th sailing season on Sept. 30.

“The value of the Elliott Bay Water Taxi was particularly evident during the Interstate 5 construction when it carried more than 2,300 passengers in nine days,” King County Executive Ron Sims said. “That’s proof more residents are willing to leave their cars at home and try the Water Taxi.”

There will also be service for the two October home Seahawk games on the 14th and 21st. (What about them Seeeeeeeeahawks?!)

Speaking of waterborne transit…

The King County Council recently voted to establish a ferry district, which will include, at minimum, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi and the Vashon passenger-only ferry that the state has decided to stop running. In the future, expect to hear discussions of other waterborne transit possibilities.

The District would potentially support operation of Vashon-Seattle passenger-only ferries, year-round Elliott Bay Water Taxi service, and a Kirkland-to-University of Washington demonstration route; conduct feasibility studies of future routes; and establish a modest capital fund for better boats and dock facilities. Other potential destinations that could be served include West Seattle, Des Moines, downtown Seattle, North Bay, Magnolia, Shilshole, Shoreline, Lake Union, North Renton, and Kenmore. Depending on the results of a potential feasibility study for passenger-only ferry service for South Puget Sound, additional service could be developed linking King County with Gig Harbor and Tacoma.

My take: I love the Water Taxi and ride it often, but I’m not yet sure that expanding waterborne transit in this region makes sense. It will only work well if there are efficient ways to get people to and from the boats. I’d rather take a bus across a bridge (even a crowded bridge) than take a bus to a boat, wait to get on, board, ride, and then catch another bus at the other end. (This isn’t an issue when I take the Water Taxi, since it takes me from downtown straight to my destination.)

Still, it will be interesting to see how this idea progresses. I’m keeping my mind open.

Speaking of Frida…

Talk about a good reason for a bus wrap:

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Frida’s birth Mexico City converted some of their city buses into “Fridabúses” — moving shrines honoring the painter.


Frida on the bus

Frida just so happens to be one of my non-bus-related obsessions. (Be thankful you’ve been shielded from it for so long. My friends and family members haven’t been as fortunate.)

What I wouldn’t give to ride on one of those…

9/24: a big day for transit

I’ve already mentioned two of the transit-related happenings that are scheduled for the 24th: the reopening of the downtown bus tunnel and the first day of operations for Microsoft’s Connector bus service. Now, we have another cool development to look forward to: new trains!

Today Sound Transit announced expanded Sounder commuter rail service starting September 24th that includes two new weekday round trips on the south corridor and one on the north corridor. The new south corridor trains include the introduction of a new “reverse commute” train that will run from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning and return northbound in the evening.

The reverse commute train will for the first time enable commuters to ride Sounder to jobs in South King County and Pierce County. The additional runs expand Sounder service hours in both the north and south corridors, with the first train starting at 5 a.m. and the last train making its final stop at 6:55 p.m.

Fabulous. No disrespect to the 590, but I’ve always wanted to take the Sounder to Tacoma. (Hey, where were you guys when the Frida Kahlo exhibit was at the Tacoma Art Museum?) Even better, folks who actually have to commute south can ride.

Not to bring up wraps again, but:

To celebrate and promote the brand new reverse commute route Sound Transit unveiled a special locomotive wrapped in a vintage design dubbed the “City of Destiny train,” a moniker chosen to honor Tacoma’s motto of more than 100 years.

This is fitting, considering that the motto resulted from Tacoma’s selection (over Seattle) as the terminus of the Northern Pacific railroad.

I had to work today, so I couldn’t attend the unveiling, but Sound Transit Andrew was kind enough to send me pictures:

New Sounder train (from the side)
New Sounder train

What’s not to like about a train with a picture of the Mountain on the side?