Monthly Archives: January 2008

More birthdays (or, “They say it skips a generation.”)

Today is the birthday of my grandma, Bernice Saulter. Grandma Saulter was a bus chick before bus chicks were in style. (OK, so we’re not in style yet, but our day is coming.) When she joined her husband in Seattle after he found work here in the late ’30s, she took the bus out of necessity; they didn’t own a car. Years later, when my father was an adult and tried to teach her to drive, she ran off the road, developed a fear of cars, and vowed never to try again. She rode the bus and walked everywhere she needed to go until she died.

A bus memory:

When I turned six and needed to have my annual portrait taken, Grandma took me to Sears on the bus. We had both recently celebrated a birthday, and I chose this precious time alone with her to show that I remembered her new age.

“Grandma, are you 69?” I asked as I followed her up the steps of the 55, eagerly anticipating the only possible response: Why, yes I am, you smart girl!

But Grandma slipped her bus ticket into the fare box and took her seat behind the driver without a word. I climbed in next to her and tried again, this time tugging her sleeve to get her attention.

“Grandma, are you 69?”

Grandma put away her glasses, adjusted her wig, and fiddled with the handkerchief that she always kept in the pocket of her cardigan sweater, but she didn’t answer my question. My other grandmother, my mother‘s mother, who lived an airplane ride away and visited only occasionally, was hard of hearing, and so were the grandmothers of several of my friends. Grandma Bernice had apparently developed a similar affliction. Luckily, I knew just what to do.

I leaned close to her ear, and in my clearest voice, shouted, “GRANDMA, ARE YOU 69?”

At last, there was a response. This woman I adored, who smelled like Rose Milk and Mentholatum, who taught me to make cookies and cornbread and was never too busy to search for salamanders, turned to me and twisted her sweet face into an angry grimace.

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” she nearly spat, then turned away again, staring out the bus’s front window as if I weren’t there.

She continued to ignore me for the remainder of the ride.

Later, my father explained that, while six-year-olds are eager to share their age with anyone who will listen, 69-year-olds are not always so eager. It was best, he said, not to ask Grandma about her age in public. I never asked her about her age again, in public or otherwise. Fortunately, she forgave my transgression, and we happily continued our bus partnership well into my teen years.

Happy birthday to another original bus chick.

Busing with baby, part II

Remember June, the bus chick in training I wrote about back in November of ’06? (I’m guessing not, which is why I provided the link.) Her mother Lily, a full-fledged bus chick, recently wrote an article about busing with children for NWSource. Lily has been riding around town with June since June was three weeks old, and she has some great suggestions for how to plan, what to carry, and how to travel safely. (A fun fact I didn’t know: Traveling to school on the bus is 12 times safer than traveling by car.)

Here are some of Lily’s safety tips:

Lily and June waiting for the bus in West Seattle (Source: NWSource)

• Stay seated. Children are often tempted to crawl on the seats of the bus, and older kids have been known to stand and “surf” while the bus is moving. Remind kids to stay in their seats. According to transit safety officer Sue Stewart, forward-facing seats are generally the safest*.
• Communicate with the driver. If you know you will need extra time to get situated before the bus starts moving, politely ask the driver to wait until you are seated.
• When traveling with infants, it can be easiest to carry them in a sling or front-pack carrier. While you can bring an infant in a car-seat carrier, there is no place to secure it, and it can be unwieldy. However, it is still a great option if you are going to be driving on either end of your bus trip.

Lily also advises would-be bus parents to travel light. After just 11 weeks of bus parenting, I know this to be good advice. From last week’s Real Change column.

As a bus chick, I deal with the competing requirements of being prepared for any eventuality and traveling light. Pre-Chicklet, I had reached a good balance, keeping my bus chick bag light but stocked with everything a childless young(ish) woman might need on her adventures. These days, my bus chick bag must double as a diaper bag, and I’ve got an additional 10-pound piece of precious cargo to consider. A baby carrier keeps my hands free and the Chicklet happy (it also prevents the hassle of taking a stroller on the bus), but I’m still figuring out how much (and what) to carry with me.

I’ve gotten pretty good at packing the stuff Chicklet will need, but that often means leaving behind some of my own necessities–like reading material. I’ll work it out (and continue to pick Lily’s brain) until I get it right and then report back. In the meantime, as long as we have diapers, her snow suit, and a bus pass, we’ll make out alright.

* Over the summer, I received a question from a reader about the safest seat for traveling with an infant. The folks I contacted at Metro didn’t know of an official position on this, but after a bit of deliberation, they concluded that the seat behind the driver was the safest. It seems to me that they should get together with safety officer Sue and come up with a consistent list of recommendations, then make it available to riders on the Web site and at pass sales offices.

Upcoming events for transit types

Thursday, January 24th

Metro is hosting a class to help employers lower employee commuting costs.

The law allows employees to set aside up to $115 per month in pre-tax income for purchase of a transit pass or ticket book. Because pre-tax benefits lower an employee’s taxable income, the employee saves federal withholding and FICA payroll taxes on the amount deducted. The employer also saves paying FICA on the amount deducted. Employers can also choose to contribute to the cost of their employees’ public transportation fare and still allow employees to use pre-tax dollars for the employee share.

Metro staff offers free training classes for employers – the next one is Jan. 24 in Seattle – tool kits to start the program at individual worksites, and assistance in carrying out the program.

If you don’t work for a company cool enough to buy your bus pass, you should encourage your boss (or HR rep) to go.


Time: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Mezza Cafe Conference Room, Third Floor, Starbucks Center, 2401 Utah Ave. S.

Register here.

Tuesday, January 29th

The Transportation Choices Coalition is hosting Transportation Advocacy Day.

We’re heading down to Olympia on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 to advocate for action on climate change, better transportation choices, and healthier transportation. Last year more than 150 citizens like you advocated for better transportation alternatives. At Advocacy Day you’ll have the chance to learn more about transportation issues, meet with legislators, attend hearings, and be a professional lobbyist for a day!

Last year this event was extremely successful. If you can make the time, it’s worth it to attend–if only to be part of the bike/Flexcar caravan.


Times: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Meet at: The United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Avenue SE, Olympia

Register here.

Friday, February 1st

As part of their First Friday Earth Forum series, the Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalists will show the documentary Bus Riders Union .

This film by Academy Award winner Haskell Wexler traces three years in the life of Los Angeles’ Bus Riders Union as it forges a powerful multiracial movement to fight transit racism, clean up LA’s lethal auto pollution, and win billion-dollar victories for real mass transit for the masses.

Does the Seattle area need its own union to fight for more transit to better serve both the needy and the environment? Come and be part of this conversation.

I’ve been wanting to see this film, so I’ll be there.


Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Rainier Unitarian Universalist Center, 835 Yesler Way (Yesler and Broadway)

Catching up

The end of 2007 was a bit slow for blogging, as I was distracted by my new Chicklet, the holidays, and etc. I intend to get things back on track for 2008. For starters, here are some photos (taken by Bus Nerd) I meant to post over the last few weeks:

Moving furniture on the 27:

Moving a chair on the 27

And I thought I deserved props for taking a large painting to the framer’s on the 8.

The remains of a hurried bus-stop breakfast:

Bus stop breakfast
Bus stop breakfast

Bus Nerd has been known to do this, though he tends not to leave his Tupperware behind.

A notice posted at the stop in front of Benaroya Hall:

Bike rack warning

Starting Saturday, January 5th, bike racks will not be available on some Metro Transit routes and trips. Some bike racks are being removed due to rack operating concerns. Racks will be replaces in the coming weeks as they become available.

This change affects all bus trips on routes 1, 2, 3, 4,10, 12, 13, 14, 36, 49, and 70 and some trips on routes 7, 43, and 44.

For more information, visit

Looks like the three-bike racks aren’t working out as well as planned.

And speaking of the Benaroya stop: Check the new solar-powered trash compactor that has replaced the standard nasty, overflowing can:

Solar trash compactor


And finally: a crowded stop near the stadium after the Seattle-Washington playoff game–back when times were still good for Seahawk fans:

Bye, Seahawks

Perhaps if folks had ridden the bus to Lambeau on Saturday…

Until next year, gentlemen.

The ultimate bus foul, part III (or, another good reason to ride)

Folks in New York rode the subway without pants yesterday:

About 900 New Yorkers shed their bottoms – but not their underwear – and took to the 2, 6 and R trains for the seventh annual No Pants Subway Ride.

“This is what I’d be doing anyway on a Saturday – sitting at home with my pants off,” proclaimed Matt Gernt, 22, a finance consultant from Harlem, before boarding an R train.

No pants on the subway (Source: New York Daily News)


I can’t say I’m interested in seeing that much of my fellow riders (Seattle bus types: Don’t get any ideas.), but I imagine that for some New Yorkers (my brother, Jeremy, for example), it all depends on who’s on the train.