Monthly Archives: September 2007

Does it count if you’re carrying shopping bags?

This evening, as I got off the 27, the driver kneeled the bus for me. (Yes, in Bus Chick’s world, “kneel” is a transitive verb, and inanimate objects without actual knees can be “knelt.”) I’m not sure if it was because of my enormous belly or the enormous bag (full of recently purchased pillows) I was carrying, but Bus Nerd says it counts.

I really can’t explain why I’m so happy to have reached this milestone. There’s just something about the lowering of the bus (and its associated beep) that thrills me. Maybe it’s my transit geek tendencies. More likely, it’s my unfortunate obsession with low-riding cars with candy paint and ridiculous hydraulics. (What you know about switchin’ lanes on the wood grain?) Of course, there’s also the possibility that pregnancy is so tedious that any break in the monotony is a welcome distraction. But I digress.

I suppose all of us will eventually have the privilege of using bus accessibility technology, so I’m not sure why I’m in a rush. After what I witnessed a couple of months ago, I’m certainly not in any rush to try the ramp.

Eastbound 4, 8:40 PM

On a particularly hot, slow and funky ride (on the 4, folks, this is saying something), a particularly funky passenger gets off at Harborview. As soon as the doors close, another passenger, red-faced and indignant, addresses his fellow riders in the front section.

Indignant passenger: “I don’t like stinky riders.”

Man across from IP: “Maybe he was doing dialysis. You know, the kidney has something to do with that gland that makes people…”

IP: “I don’t care what–I don’t like stinky riders. Most of the time, I get off just to get away from them.”

Friend of man across from IP (who happens to be sitting right next to a certain, sensitive-nosed, pregnant bus chick): “I’m with you. I worked a full day and don’t smell that bad.”

A bus chick’s version of a good day

This morning, I stopped by the County Courthouse to see some demos of the partially wrapped buses. (The Council tabled the vote on whether to allow the partial wraps, so these demos were made available to help the members come to a decision. Members of the Transit Advisory Committee and the Accessible Services Advisory Committee were also invited to take a look.)

The partial wraps leave 15″ clear on every bus window. This looks different on different buses, depending on the size of the windows and the height of the seats. (I apologize in advance for the quality of these pictures; I have yet to replace my broken camera.)

Here’s what a partially wrapped trolley looks like:

Demo of a partially wrapped trolley

Note: There aren’t any real ads designed for this template yet, so the folks at Metro just removed some of the vinyl from an existing ad.

Here’s a New Flyer 40-footer:

Demo of a partially wrapped 40 footer

In this case, instead of altering an existing wrap, they covered the parts of the windows that would be obscured by the ad.

Here’s the view from inside the trolley:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

And from the other side:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

Anyone recognize the man in the red circle? Yes indeed, Busfather was there as the official driver of the 40-footer. He got to hang out for a couple of hours while the bigwigs (and regular folks like me) checked things out. Not a bad gig for a sunny Monday.

Anirudh, aka Bus Hero, who also happens to be one of my fellow TAC members, was also there.

Anirudh on the trolley:

Anirudh on the partially wrapped trolley

So was my councilmember, Larry Gossett:

Larry Gossett on the partially wrapped trolley

Y’all already know how I feel about bus revenue: I’m inclined to endure a little obscured vision every once in a while if it means more service. The good news is, the partially wrapped buses don’t obscure your vision. I could see out of all the windows, even when I hunched down to make myself shorter. (Of course, I’m not sure how a child riding alone or a person in a wheelchair would do. I’ll leave the latter to the folks at the Accessible Services Advisory Committee.)

Bottom line: We (OK, I) likey. Councilmembers, please vote “yes.”

After the bus viewing, a lovely lunch at the Gates Foundation with my friend Char (which involved a slowish ride on the 70), and a quick trip to the Real Change office, I happened upon Smooth Jazz while crossing the street on my way to catch the 27. (He was driving a bus back to the base, apparently, after finishing his shift.) I waved before I had a chance to remember that he doesn’t actually know me, and he waved back. Turns out, he does know me (and how could he not–I’ve been on his bus about 30,000 times in the past year). He said he hadn’t seen me in a while and had been wondering what I’d been up to. This, of course, made me feel very important and fabulous.

Called up the homies and Im askin yall
Which court, are yall playin basketball?
Get me on the court and Im trouble
Last week messed around and got a triple double
Freaking brothers everyway like m.j.
I cant believe, today was a good day

The opposite of a tax break for bus riders

Yesterday, Ben from Capitol Hill hipped me to some information that I apparently missed in the September Flexcar newsletter:

Beginning October 1, 2007, car-sharing in Seattle will be subject to a state-authorized, county-administered rental-car tax of 9.7%. This means that Flexcar Seattle members will be charged this 9.7% tax, in addition to the existing sales tax, bringing your total tax amount to 18.7% for any car-sharing usage on or after October 1.

If this ain’t a prime candidate for an Out of Service

What are we* doing here? Are we seriously going to impose a tourist tax on people who live here and are doing their part to get cars off the road?

If you want to know more about the tax increase, check out Alan Durning’s recent post. If you think it’s as silly as I do, sign this petition.

* Note: I still don’t know who’s behind this decision. It certainly doesn’t seem consistent with the philosophy of our county leadership. Can anyone help?

Microsoft takes on Google in another arena

Back in March, I wrote about the fancy, private buses Google provides to its employees. Looks like our friendly neighborhood software giant is getting into the transportation game, too:

The Connector, a new transportation service launched by the Microsoft® Connections Transportation Program, will carry employees from their residential neighborhoods to the Redmond, Wash., campus, starting Sept. 24. In the pilot phase, The Connector will make stops in five neighborhoods covering downtown Seattle, Bothell, Mill Creek, Issaquah and Sammamish, providing a convenient, productive and comfortable means for commuting to work.

Microsoft Connector


Apparently, the Connector will serve neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of Microsoft employees. From the Seattle side, this means Queen Anne/Belltown and First Hill/Capitol Hill. With the exception, perhaps, of Queen Anne, I’m not convinced that traveling from these places on a private bus (which I assume will have limited pickup locations) will be any more convenient than transferring to the 545. Of course, it’s hard to make that determination without more information about how buses will work. If I don’t find out sooner, I’ll talk to folks who ride it on the 24th, which by the way, happens to be the same day the bus tunnel is scheduled to reopen. But I digress.

I wonder how many Seattle riders will be former 545ers (crossing my fingers that ridership doesn’t decrease enough to affect service) and how many will be SOV converts. Microsoft seems to think that the program will have quite a few converts. (Certainly, in places like Bothell and Snoqualmie, which don’t have convenient bus service to Redmond, it will.)

The company’s predictions about the environmental impact:

• The Connector service will result in 20,000 fewer cars per month and 240,000 fewer cars per year on the road.
• The Connector will eliminate approximately 3,800 tons of carbon emissions annually.
• By providing a convenient option for commuting to work, The Connector will eliminate approximately 800 vehicle trips and 32,200 miles of travel each day, significantly curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s hoping.

Transportation safety, part II

Way back in July (the 14th, to be exact), I witnessed a disturbing accident while traveling downtown on my beloved 27. I happened to be sitting in a window seat on the same side as the door, so I had a good view of the boardings. At 20th & Yesler, I watched as the driver lowered the ramp for a dapper, fedora-wearing older man in a fancy, electric wheelchair–the kind with shocks and a cushioned, contoured seat with armrests.

Like countless wheelchair passengers before him, the man maneuvered his chair into the correct position and began rolling up the ramp. Unlike countless wheelchair passengers before him, he didn’t make it all the way. Before his back wheels had even reached the incline, the man’s chair suddenly flipped, sending him crashing, back-first, onto the pavement.

Most of the passengers (me included) gasped and then froze, but two good Samaritans jumped out of their seats to help him. Some of the accessories (the wheel covers, for example) had come off of his chair, so it took them a few minutes to get him recombobulated and on the bus. During those minutes, they asked several times if he was OK, but he wasn’t able to do much more than nod.

The bus driver, who had, surprisingly, stayed in his seat (I vaguely remember learning in my bus driver class that they’re required to do this), called in on his radio to report the incident. The person he talked to must have said it was OK to move on, because he pulled away from the stop as soon as the man was buckled in. This I also found surprising, since most bus “incidents” I’ve witnessed (usually falls involving rainy weather and slippery aisles) have caused long delays: interviews, form signing, visits from trained medics and Metro personnel, etc.

In this case, there was no delay, even though it wasn’t clear that the victim was OK. It seemed to me that he should be taken to a hospital and observed for signs of a serious head injury, or at the very least, escorted to his destination. I stayed silent, though, worrying and wondering but doing nothing.

The man got off at Broadway. I was somewhat reassured when, on his way down the ramp, he said to the driver, “Next time, I’ll put it in low gear.”

He wasn’t hurt too badly to tell a joke. Still, I worried about him for the rest of the day, and I’ve thought about him many times since–namely, every time someone boards one of my buses using the wheelchair ramp. (Since I have no idea what caused the accident in July–Was the man’s chair defective? Did he operate it incorrectly? Did the driver lower the ramp in an unsafe location?–I have no way of predicting how likely I am to witness another.)

Today, again on the 27 (headed east this time), and again sitting in a door-side window seat, I saw the same man, in his same fancy chair, wearing the same fedora, waiting in front of some senior apartments at the edge of downtown. As the driver lowered the ramp to let him on, my stomach clenched with anxiety (or maybe it was just Bus Baby stomping on one of my vital organs). Apparently, his did, too. He grabbed his fedora with his free hand and leaned forward as far as he could before easing sloooooowly up the incline. This time, he made it just fine.

I’m pretty sure he was in low gear.