Monthly Archives: February 2008

Several minutes later, on the same ride

As we creep down the West Valley Highway (or some such interminable road), Man 1 begins to sigh loudly and roll his eyes.

Man 2: “I’m telling you, you should have taken the 565. This is the bus you take if you’re just hanging out, with nothing to do and no place to be.”


I knew I should have followed Trip Planner’s first itinerary, which actually recommended I take the 565 to my destination in Kent. It was the double transfer that put me off…

Northbound 150, 2 PM

Two men in the front section are passing the time with small talk.

Man 1: “You have any kids?”
Man 2: “Yeah–six: two in Texas, two in California, and two in Seattle.”
Man 1: “Whoa.”
Man 2: “Papa was a rolling stone.”

Retroactive fare increases: not OK

From Charlie in Ravenna:

I am a regular rider, and don’t have many complaints (everyone has some, right) but the fare increase really surprised me. I understand the need for an increase (like you, I disagree with the way that transit is funded, but a fare increase is better than decreased service), but I had no idea that they would apply the fare retroactively.

I purchased a twelve month pass in November 2007, so it expires in October 2008. This was before the fare increase was announced. Today, I received a letter saying that I need to pay to upgrade my pass for the remaining months on the term of the pass. So I have to pay $63 for my pass to work for $1.75 fares (the new rush hour fare). And, I can only do this at two locations downtown, during weekday work hours.

I feel pretty used here. The annual pass requires a huge upfront cash payment. Shouldn’t they be rewarding us for making a big investment in public transit, rather than giving us a major headache by making us take off work and go downtown to pay above the funds we budgeted for when we bought the pass?

Has anyone else found this to be unreasonable?

I didn’t know about this insanity until Charlie contacted me (I receive a free Flexpass through work), but I definitely find it to be unreasonable. Frankly, I’m wondering how it’s even legal. Let’s assume that Charlie purchased the pass only because it was within his budget back in November, and let’s assume that he can’t afford to upgrade or pay an extra 25 cents every time he rides. Can he get a refund? And isn’t protection against changes in price one of the advantages of paying in advance? From what I understand, my employer doesn’t have to pay to upgrade my pass and won’t see any change in costs until Flexpasses are renewed in July.

Perhaps Seattle does need a bus riders’ union

For better or worse, part III

For better: The 48, where everybody knows your name

On Friday, Chicklet and I traveled to the Eastside (48 + 545) to meet Bus Nerd for lunch. My parental leave is quickly dwindling, and we’re trying to get in all the family bonding time we can. I digress.

The 48 ride was one of those cool trips where it feels like you know everyone on the bus. We ran into my friend Paulette, whom I met several years ago (through Bus Nerd) on the 3. Actually, I originally met Paulette many years earlier, when I was still a child, because, as we discovered upon our second meeting on the 3, she knew my dad. Again, I digress.

Paulette is a teacher and a student, and she was on her way to the UW to make copies of some old bound issues of Labor’s Heritage, to do research for a class about education for revolution, or the revolution of education, or some equally cool subject.

I didn’t catch all of the details about her class because in the middle of our conversation, Sarah B, a woman I went to high school with, sat down next to us. Sarah was also on her way to the U, no doubt to work on her dissertation, so she can go ahead and knock out that PhD in environmental anthropology.

We all got to talking–about the sunny weather, the origins of Chicklet’s name, and Paulette’s blog (about local eating) for the Splendid Table.

I got so caught up in conversation that Chicklet and I missed our stop and had to backtrack a couple of blocks (in the sunshine!) to Montlake Freeway Station to catch our transfer.

For worse: Freeway station interrogation

Just as Chicklet and I had settled in on the bench to await the trusty 545, a rather odd man (there were no obvious outward signs of his oddness, but I have very sensitive insanedar, honed from a lifetime of bus riding) sat down next to us.

Odd Man: “Have you seen the 265?”
Bus Chick: “I’ve only been here a few minutes, but I haven’t seen it.”
OM: “But what time is it supposed to get here?”
BC, gesturing toward the enormous sign to our left: “Schedule’s right there.”
OM: “Yeah, but it doesn’t have the 265 on it.”

Having no more help to offer the man, I turned back to Chicklet.

OM: “Is that your only child?”
BC: “Yep.”

And then, with absolutely no transition, he followed with one of my favorite questions:

“Are you half black?”

Of course I could have (possibly should have) shut him down at that point, but I’m a curious person (though apparently not as curious as some), and I wanted to see where his questions were leading.

BC: “Yes, I am.”

He continued to ask (How many siblings do you have? Are your parents still married?) and I continued to answer, until he started asking too many questions about my mother’s death, and I decided I’d had enough.

BC: “These questions are a bit personal, wouldn’t you say?”
OM: “Oh yeah. I bet I’m the only one who’s asked you this stuff, huh?”

Not by a long shot, buddy. Not by a long shot.

Finally, the 255, arrived, (not the bus he’d asked about but apparently the one he decided to take) and he got up. As he waited in line to board, he turned to me one last time.

“Say, is your husband black or white?”

More service!

Metro announced more Transit Now-funded service expansion yesterday, including new routes through service partnerships and more frequent service (hallelujah!) on many existing routes. I missed the press conference, but Larry Lange was on the case.

From yesterday’s PI:

Metro said Wednesday it will seek improvements to expand service on 25 King County bus routes and create four more in a cost-sharing arrangement promised in a 2006 expansion measure.

The agency will present the changes Thursday to the King County Council for approval. If passed, the changes would go into effect in September and would cost about $14.5 million, with Metro paying about two-thirds of it.


As part of the proposal, Seattle would receive more-frequent trips on Routes 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14-S, 26, 28 and 44 in 2008.

Service frequency also would increase in 2009 on routes 2, 13 and 48 and in 2010 on city routes 5, 7, 8, 70, 74 and 75, with costs to be shared by Metro, the city and the South Lake Union Mobility Partnership for Routes 8 and 70. Some trips on Route 60 would be extended in 2010.

Still no love for the 27 (which planner types insist has low ridership–not in my experience) or the south end of the 8. But I ain’t complainin’…

Speaking of busing while intoxicated…

Justin from West Seattle wrote me recently about Metro’s night owl service:

Last night I discovered a route that goes past my building that I didn’t even know about, despite having been a bus commuter for a long time (Metro 54 and ST 545). …Metro provides what they call “night owl” service, and it saved me a cab right from the bar last night. I’m mailing this to you hoping that you might want to mention this service on your blog, as I bet there a thousands of bus commuters who don’t know of it.

I know about night owl service, but I’ve never used it (just call me Buschickrella), and until I checked with the folks at Metro, I didn’t know much about it. Here’s what I was able to find out:

There are 10 routes that provide service between 2 AM and 5 AM:

7: Rainier Beach
81: Ballard/Loyal Heights
82: Queen Anne/Greenlake/Greenwood
83: University/Maple Leaf/Ravenna
84: Madison Park/Madrona
85: West Seattle/Admiral District/White Center
120: Burien
174: Seatac/Federal Way
180: Kent/SE Auburn
280: Somewhere on the Eastside (The schedule doesn’t list a destination for this route. Seriously.)

Some of these (7, 174 [aka Ugly Steproute], and 120, for example) are regular routes that happen to run exceptionally late. Others (the 80s) are special, night-only routes. (Sometime soon I’ll devote a post to the logic–or lack thereof–of the route-numbering system.) As far as I can tell, none of these routes run near my house, so (unless the party’s good enough to justify a cab ride) I’ll continue to hightail it out the door before the last regular bus leaves.

Now where did I put those glass slippers?

Another term for the glossary

BWI (busing while intoxicated): Riding any form of public transportation while under the influence of alcohol or other (less legal) drugs. BWI is usually identified by the telltale scent of the intoxicating substance and its associated bizarre, antisocial, or otherwise transit-unfriendly behavior. (See also: bus foul, trife, Seahawks Special)

You can find more transit-inspired language in the bus rider’s glossary.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about…

• A car-free city in the Persian Gulf:

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Saturday for Masdar City, a nearly self-contained mini-municipality designed for up to 50,000 people rising from the desert next to Abu Dhabi’s international airport and intended as a hub for academic and corporate research on nonpolluting energy technologies.

The 2.3-square-mile community, set behind walls to divert hot desert winds and airport noise, will be car free, according to the design by Foster + Partners, the London firm that has become a leading practitioner of energy-saving architecture.

(Source: New York Times, via Bus Nerd)

• Even higher congestion charges in London:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone will triple the city’s daily congestion charge to 25 pounds ($49) for the most-polluting cars and sport utility vehicles, his latest plan to cut carbon emissions by boosting driving costs.

Owners of vehicles that emit more than 225 grams (0.5 pounds) of carbon dioxide a kilometer — the so-called ‘G band’ rating used for calculating U.K. vehicle tax — will pay the increased fee to enter central London’s congestion zone starting Oct. 27. The charge will be waived for owners of the least- polluting vehicles, Livingstone said at a news conference today.

(Source: Bloomberg News, via World Carfree Network)

Buses on film

While we’re on the subject of transit and class, here’s a quick report on that Bus Riders Union documentary I went to see a few weeks ago:

The film basically focuses on the BRU‘s struggle to make the LA MTA more responsive to the needs of the poor and disabled, people who don’t have a choice about whether to ride. I am supportive of the organization’s goals (if not all of their tactics), but I found it unfortunate that they seemed to dwell on a (in my view, artificial) distinction between bus and rail. Apparently, the vast majority of the MTA’s resources are spent on rail, which tends to be used by middle-class commuters, and according to the 10-year-old documentary, not very many, at that. A small fraction of its resources are spent on buses, which tend to be used by poor people, and a much larger proportion of MTA’s customer base. In the film, the BRU reps argued for a drastic reduction in the amount of money being spent on rail.

This distinction seems to me to be less a function of the mode of transportation and more a function of its implementation. Rail transit can and does serve the poor in many major cities, and it could certainly do so in LA. It is true that rail costs more than buses initially, so, if we’re talking about getting bang for limited bucks, it might make sense to invest in a BRT system like the one in Bogota. But if you’ve ever been to New York or Chicago (or, for that matter, Paris), you know that everybody–and I do mean everybody–rides the train.

Saulty on the subway
New York City subway riders: Beware of this man.