Monthly Archives: October 2007

Still riding…

I’m waiting patiently for Bus Baby to make an appearance (hey, I thought I signed up for 40 weeks–not 41), frightening my fellow passengers, who, it seems, are desperately hoping my water doesn’t break while we’re sharing a seat.

There are several items I failed to report while I was busy attempting to will myself into labor, but I only have the energy to tell you about two of them.

First, the not-so-good news:

Flexcar members will be paying the rental car tax. From a recent Flexcar newsletter:

As you may know, Flexcar has been working with the Department of Revenue to address the application of the State and County rental-car tax to Flexcar members. While we made important progress in educating the Department of Revenue on why car-sharing is different from traditional car rental, we were unable to reach a definitive resolution. The Department determined that it could not exempt car-sharing from the rental-car tax without legislative authority.

Consequently, the Department of Revenue has informed us that we must now begin to collect the rental-car tax effective November 1, 2007. As a result, you will see those taxes reflected in our invoices beginning with any November Flexcar charges. For trips using Flexcars in King County (Seattle, Bellevue, or Kirkland), the rental-car tax will be 9.7%. Use of Flexcar vehicles in Vancouver, WA, will be subject to a rental-car tax of 5.9%.

Guess it’s time to get that “legislative authority.” There’s already a petition circulating.

Now, to cheer us up:

Sustainable Ballard received 436 October “undriving” pledges at their Undriver Licensing booth last month. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Not drive to any destination adjacent to or in downtown Seattle.
2. No driving on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
3. Never drive to the grocery – even if it’s in the middle of the night. [Apparently, this person is familiar with Bus Chick’s Diet Plan.]
4. Walk kids to school, walk to work – back home. Get gear for rain to be prepared!
5. Not replace our 2nd car.
6. Not drive daughter to school, have her take bus.
7. Skateboard to Sunny’s Teriyaki.
8. Not drive at all except for one Flexcar trip on one day. Use bus + foot.
9. Commute 5 days a week by bus or bike. Bike or carpool to church and church meetings.
10. Bus to my volunteer job. Walk to shopping. Get my bike back in riding condition.
11. Ride my bike to school (Ballard to Capitol Hill) one time a week for full quarter.
12. Walk at least 3 days a week rather than driving to the pool.
13. Sell my car! Ride the bus, bike or walk to work.
14. Help my neighbor drive less by organizing a car-share. Bike to work.
15. Walk to Ballard Market + walk/bus for weekend nights out.
16. Not drive to Tacoma or Everett but take the Sounder
17. Use the bus to take my daughter to school at least three times per week.
18. Combine by errands into one trip and make more of my trips on my bike.
19. Prepare to sell our second car – carpool – and look into a bike buggy for errands.
20. Reduce in-person meetings for the organizations I work with, meeting by phone, email, etc.
21. Take the bus to: Seatac Airport, Benaroya Hall. Bike to work more. Get my winter lights installed!
22. Bike to work every day. Do local errands (<1 mile) with bike or by foot. Take public transportation to airport/downtown.
23. Run the dogs at the local parks once a week instead of driving to a farther away park.
24. Ride my bike to the library + grocery store on weekends.
25. Only drive if I am heading out of the city.
26. Carpool or ride the bus to all events throughout the month.
27. Never to use my car in the center of the Ballard neighborhood – always to walk around the neighborhood.
28. Walk or bike to school every day, organize “walk to school” month + help create walking school buses to Adams Elementary.
29. Walk 2x per week instead of drive to coffee. And bus 2x per week to kids’ activities.
30. Not drive on weekend.
31. Drive only when moving furniture, and in all other cases bike or use public transit.
32. Talk to others about the steps we’ve taken to reduce driving.
33. Speak to 6 people about the benefits of not owning an automobile.
34. Drive less and to talk my wife into driving less.
35. Encourage my yoga students to bike, bus or walk to class.

Anyone got an undriving pledge for November? I’ve got 10 Metro “ride free” passes for the person who posts the most inspirational pledge (read: the one I like best).

“Is this seat taken?” (part II)

The PI’s Singled Out blog has a recent post about meeting people/finding dates on the bus.

In the hunt for my next job, “only a bus ride away” will be mandatory criteria in my list of wants. “Why?” you might ask. Well, besides the obvious environmental and traffic-relieving reasons, I want to ride the bus because I think that:

The bus is an untapped gold mine of potential dates with Seattle’s singles.

Well, hello!

Told you (many times, in fact) buses were sexy.

Dear Bus Chick…

OK, so I don’t have an advice column, but after reading today’s installment of Prudie in Slate, I’m considering starting one. I’m so not feelin’ her advice on this:

Dear Prudie,

My sister-in-law and I ride the same bus to work. It’s a 30- to 40-minute ride, and we like to spend it catching up with each other. About half my time is spent traveling for work, so when I’m in town, we enjoy catching up on the latest family news and my travel adventures. Some mornings, people complain that we’re talking on the bus. In fact, some people groan when they see us coming. We try to be pretty quiet when we talk and we don’t use profanity or talk about things that could be offensive (sex, drugs, etc). However, the atmosphere on the bus is like someone died, complete silence! We have pretty tough skins but I would like some ideas on how to keep the peace on the bus.

–Bus Stop

Dear Bus,
Groaning at the sight of you two is rude, but it’s understandable that people hoping for a bubble of silence between family life and the work day look on you happy in-laws with dread, knowing that for the next 40 minutes they’ll get to hear about Aunt Edna’s goiter and that great Thai place you found in Akron. I’m sure you two think you’re being quiet, but animated conversations tend to be voluble. If the bus isn’t full, could you both sit in the back and really make an effort to speak sotto voce? If that doesn’t work, could you spend the first 10 minutes catching up, plan to meet for lunch during the week so you can talk, then spend the rest of your ride doing the crossword? It is public transportation, and you two are entitled to conduct a conversation, but my heart is with the commuters who prefer a moving sarcophagus to a family reunion.


My version:

Dear Bus,

There is no requirement for silence on any form of public transportation. Chatting with friends (and even strangers) is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time on your rides. (Shoot, the guy behind me on my evening 48 passed the time by chatting with himself. But I digress.) It’s true that some bus riders like to use their commutes to read, nap, or catch up on work, so it’s certainly good manners to keep your voice down; however, there is absolutely no reason to shorten or otherwise constrain (unless you’re sharing TMI, which is a major bus foul) your conversations.

To those commuters who still find themselves distracted by your chatter, I recommend: headphones, earplugs, or improving those all-important tuning-out skills. (These skills are not rare; anyone with a mother, a spouse, or children–or who has attempted to cram for exams in an undergraduate library–has them.) If, none of these options is effective, they should learn to take more interest in other folks’ business. For me, eavesdropping rivals reading as one of the great joys of the ride.

– Bus Chick

Your turn. Should this woman and her sister-in-law zip it for the benefit of their anal–ahem!–silence-loving fellow riders?

Indoctrina–I mean, educating, the next generation

Intercity Transit, which serves Olympia, Lacey, and Yelm, is doing its part to make a difference in the future by educating young people about transit. From yesterday’s Olympian:

LACEY — A cluster of 25 black balloons that Haviela Patino, 16, held over her head represented a car trip from the Business Education Cooperative Work class at North Thurston High School to the Regal Cinemas 16 on Martin Way.

Erin Cawley-Morse, youth education and outreach coordinator for Intercity Transit, asked Patino and her class to think about what part of the trip the balloons might represent.
“Oh! It’s pollution!” Patino exclaimed.

The balloon demonstration was one part of a new Intercity Transit presentation for high school students about the merits of taking the bus.

The South Sound’s transit authority started a new student outreach program this year, after receiving a $52,000 federal grant called Smart Moves. The program will fund assemblies and classroom visits and paid for the development of classroom materials about public transportation.

I love this idea! Lots young people ride the bus out of necessity but aren’t taught to think of it as a long-term transportation solution. (Many years ago, I happened to be one of those young people.) IT’s program educates them about the benefits of choosing transit even after driving becomes an option. (Did I mention a monthly youth bus pass costs only $12.50?)

The program offers downloadable classroom materials for teachers of all grade levels, so kids can start learning about the impact of their choices as early as elementary school. After all,

“The generation that is coming up through the schools now are not only the drivers and commuters of the future, but making choices and developing values now that they will take with them throughout their lives,” she said.

Shoot–now I’ve got that Whitney Houston song stuck in my head.

Westbound 14, 1:10 PM (or, Speaking of “What are you?”…)

I’m sitting in the very front of the forward-facing rows, on the driver’s side, in the seat nearest the window. At a light somewhere in the ID, the man sitting in front of me (in the closest of the sideways-facing seats) strikes up a conversation. Three sentences in, he asks an odd variation on one of those questions:

“What nationality are you from?”

I know full well what he’s getting at, but I play along anyway. “I’m from here.”

“No, but what is your ethnic background?”

I cut to the chase this time–no need to prolong the interrogation. “I’m mixed: black and white.”

“Well, you could pass for a lot of things: Lebanese, Egyptian, Mexican…anything with color.” He pauses and cocks his head. “People look at you and expect you to speak some languages.”

Not-so-great expectations, part II: more joys of busing while pregnant

Only a few short weeks (fingers crossed) until Bus Baby arrives. In honor of our nine-month adventure together, last week’s Real Change column:

Great Expectations, Part II

More joys of busing while pregnant

1. If you think being a bus chick requires “restroom radar,” try being a bus chick with a five-pound weight resting on your bladder. To ward off disaster, keep a list of available restrooms near your regular stops–along with relevant codes and key locations–in your bus chick bag. Also, don’t forget to time hydration. Do not drink anything within an hour (preferably two hours) of any bus excursion.

2. After the “constantly sick and exhausted” phase of the first trimester passes, you might feel well enough to run again. When deciding whether to run for a bus, consider that, A, any jostling of the five-pound weight might adversely affect your bladder (see above); and B, even if you were a track star in high school, these days, you can barely keep pace with an 80-year-old woman pushing a walker (no disrespect to my 80-year-old bus chick sisters). Face the fact that you are unlikely to actually catch the bus you are “running” for. Finally, C: It will take you the entire ride (or the wait for the next bus) to catch your breath.

3. People will (kindly) offer you help when you don’t need it. Some examples: holding your arm when you board the bus and offering to carry shopping bags that aren’t heavy.

4. People will not offer you help when you do need it. Prepare to stand on full buses and at crowded stops — no matter how badly your back hurts — regularly.

5. Remember that expression, “Everyone loves a pregnant woman”? Well, everyone on the bus really loves a pregnant woman. (Personally, I don’t understand the fascination. I’d rather see a cute baby in the flesh than a woman with a big ol’ belly any day. But I digress.) You will be asked when you are due and the gender of your child on almost every ride you take. You will be told stories of daughters, wives, and nieces who are also expecting, and, unfortunately, of horrific labor experiences. While constant baby talk can certainly get tedious, it’s best not to fight it. (Not that you could. Not even headphones, a book, and your best “don’t talk to me” expression will prevent the questions.) Besides, for this bus chick, “When’s your baby due?” beats, “What are you?” (and all associated questions) hands down.

6. On a related note…

If you were looking forward to several months free of Howyoudoin?s, Whatsyourname?s, and Youmarried?s, prepare to be disappointed. You will, in fact, continue to be propositioned — both by members of that group of discerning gentlemen who don’t bother to actually look at the women they’re chatting up, and by an even more disturbing group: men who are actually attracted to pregnant women. Listen, don’t say I didn’t warn you. On the plus side: You don’t have to worry about fitting your enormous belly behind a steering wheel.

And about that Connector ride…

Last Thursday, I tried riding the Connector, Microsoft’s private commuter bus. The Connector doesn’t stop in my neighborhood (I have to catch a Metro bus or walk a very long way to get to one of the stops), and it’s pretty easy to get to Redmond on the public bus from where I live, so I’m not necessarily the best person to evaluate it. Still, I wanted to try it at least once, just to see what it was like.

To ride the Connector, you have to make a reservation online. You can either make a recurring reservation (if you want to ride every day at a certain time), or a one-time reservation (if you want to take it home next Wednesday at 5:30). I made a reservation for 9:00 AM the morning of the 27th on the Capitol Hill route, boarding at the Cherry and Broadway stop, which is closest to my house.

The experiment started out badly. I caught the 4 to Jefferson and Broadway and, because the 4 was slightly tardy (imagine that) and running isn’t my forte of late, missed the Connector by about 30 seconds. (I learned later that I can also catch the 8 to 17th & John and pick up the Connector at the Group Health stop, but I’m not sure that’s any more convenient.)

If I had missed a 48 or a 545 (the buses I usually ride to work) I would have simply grumbled a bit and waited the 10-20 minutes for the next one to show. But the Connectors run 30 minutes apart, and I hadn’t reserved a space on the next (and, incidentally, last) morning run. Fortunately, there was a “Connector ambassador” at the stop where I was waiting (they’re there to make sure everything runs smoothly in the first few weeks), and, after checking her list, she determined that there was room for me to ride on the next one. (If there hadn’t been, I would have had to find my way to Montlake or downtown to catch a 545.)

The ride itself was nice, though we got one of the small shuttles instead of one of those big, luxury buses I was expecting.

Connector shuttle

This was a good thing, since the small bus we got wasn’t close to full. Still, just in case you care, here’s a picture of one of the fancy, big buses, courtesy of “Public Transportation Adventure” Jim:

Big Connector

Connector cons:
• Reservation system: I don’t see how this requirement can be avoided, but I predict it will cause ongoing headaches, both for riders and for administrators of the service.
• Managing missed buses: See above.
• Limited schedule: Because of the requirement to make a reservation, a rider is required to arrive and leave at specified times, much like a carpool or vanpool member. No disrespect to folks who choose these options, but one thing I like about the bus (at least the bus I ride to work) is the flexibility to work late or leave early if I need to.
• No fresh air: I’m not sure how they work on the big buses, but the windows on the small shuttles didn’t open. Not that I’m necessarily a fan of folks who open windows, but I like to know it’s an option.

Connector pros:
• Reclining seats: They’re even more comfortable than Sound Transit’s.
• Seatbelts: I always feel safer in a bus than I do in a car, but I still wish that all buses had these.
• Laptop trays and chargers: Nice touch.

Laptop charger on the Microsoft Connector


Laptop tray on the Microsoft Connector

• Overhead bins: Unlike on Sound Transit buses, which also have overhead bins, the Connector only has one destination, so you can actually make use of them.
• A quieter ride: The Connector ride was duller than most rides on a public bus, but it did allow for easier eavesdropping. An example:

Connector ambassador 1, to Connector ambassador 2: “In my 20s, I dated these nice guys who were into commitment, and I was the fickle one. Then, at about 29, I decided I wanted to settle down, and I keep getting these bad eggs.


So then I got with my cheater/liar, and now Tim, so I’m like, ‘What’s next–a murderer?'”

About that Flexcar tax…

Remember that insane rental-car tax that the state was trying to impose on car-sharing members? It looks like enough of us raised our voices to give the folks at the Department of Revenue pause.

From today’s Flexcar newsletter:

Rental-car tax update
Last month in FlexNotes, we notified you that the Washington State Department of Revenue advised Flexcar that we must begin to collect the 9.7% state rental-car tax from our members on October 1, 2007. Since then, Flexcar and the Department of Revenue have been in discussions on resolutions to this issue. As a result, for the time being, we are deferring collection of the tax. We will be sure to keep you updated on any developments.

Keep your fingers crossed!