Monthly Archives: May 2008

May Golden Transfer (or, Speaking of reading lists…)

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to the Contra Costa County [California] Public Library, a library system that’s doing its part to encourage public transit use among readers–and reading among public transit users.

Earlier this week, as part of the new, rather unfortunately named, “Library-a-Go-Go” program, the CCCL installed a vending-style book-lending machine (the first of its kind in the nation) at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station.

[The machine] will hold some 400 books that can be checked out for free by anyone with a valid Contra Costa County library card. A patron will insert the card, get access to the available titles and check out up to three books. A robotic arm will retrieve the books.


The county public library plans to install three other machines at the transit village at the BART station in Pleasant Hill, a site in Byron/Discovery Bay and another location, not yet determined.

(Source: Mass Transit)

I’ve only been to the Pittsburg BART station once (to visit my sister back when she lived there), but I’d gladly go back just to get a crack at that machine. I love it, and not just because it will reduce car trips among East Bay readers. I love anything that makes the experience of riding transit more convenient and enjoyable, and I can’t think of anything more convenient or enjoyable than grabbing a (free) ride read anytime the spirit moves. (Well, one thing: settling in with the latest TC Boyle novel while someone else does the driving.)

A book-lending machine
A lending machine somewhere in Scandinavia (Source: SFist)

So thank you, CCC Library, for strengthening the relationship between public libraries and public transportation (two inherently complementary forces), and for giving people one more reason to ride.

Now, when can we see one of these things in the bus tunnel?

Still more on bus chicks in training

My friend Monique, although hardly a minor, is a BCiT in her own right. In March, she moved from transit-unfriendly Houston to Boston to accept a year-long contract position that advanced her career and satisfied her taste for adventure. Since it’s not a permanent job, and since she owns a home in Houston, she’s subletting a cool apartment in South Boston and getting around by bus, train, foot, and, very occasionally, Zipcar. (Boston, as some of you might know, is the home of Zipcar.)

Transit-based living agrees with Monique. She loves her walkable neighborhood and the freedom and financial benefits of getting around without a car. (She does, however, admit that she might not be as enthusiastic had she made the move in January.)

Unlike most transit types, who swear by faster, more reliable trains, Monique actually prefers the street-level option. (Would that we Seattleites had the choice!) Says Moni, “I prefer the bus to the subway because it allows me to learn and see the city and connect how all the neighborhoods relate to each other.” Apparently so. She is already amazing Boston natives with her impressive knowledge of the city.

Even with all the looking around, Monique still finds time to read on her rides. She’s finished several books that have been on her “list” for years, including one of my all-time favorites, White Teeth. (Wonder if any Boston librarians are keeping track?)

Those of you who read my Real Change column might remember Monique from her advice for avoiding unwanted bus macks. Her advice hasn’t served her well so far, as she’s been the recipient of more than her share, including several of the far more rare bus driver macks. One driver, who finishes his shift at around the same time she leaves her office, has taken such a fancy to her that he provides door-to-door service, dropping her off in front of her building on his way back to base.

Two months as a bus chick and she’s chartering buses? The woman could teach me a thing or two.

A Boston bus chick
Moni on MBTA

Speaking of bus chicks in training…

Riding the bus with Chicklet gets more fun every month. These days, instead of sleeping the rides away, she stares at people, returns smiles, looks out the window, and sometimes even tries to pull the bell. (She’s very advanced for her age, you know. Most BCiT‘s don’t go for the bell until they’re at least a year.)

She still rides in a front-pack carrier (good for keeping us close and my hands free), though we’re not using the same one we used for the first six months of her life. That carrier (a borrowed Baby Bjorn) was recalled by the woman who lent it to me; she’ll be needing it for her own brand-new baby.

The recall was actually a blessing, because, much as I appreciated the loan, the Bjorn was beginning to outlive its usefulness. It suspended Chicklet in an upright position, with her legs dangling straight down. This worked fine when she was brand new, but as she got bigger (and longer) her legs started to get in the way. Her feet rubbed against my thighs when I walked, so much so that on long walks, the color from my pants rubbed off on her outfits. And when we rode the bus, I had to force her legs into unnatural positions, against the shape of the leg holes, just to sit down. Neither of us found these positions very comfortable.

So, upon finding myself baby-carrier-less, I set about searching for one more suitable for bus riding. [I ain’t one to hawk products, but…] The one I chose, an Ergo Baby I found on Craigslist, has so far worked out quite well. Here’s why I like it:

• It holds Chicklet in a seated position, with her legs straddling my waist, elevated slightly higher than her behind. This keeps both of us comfortable and does not interfere with walking or standing.
• It has a sleeping hood, which I also use to block bright sun and rain.
• It has a zippable front pocket, which I use to carry my wallet, bus pass, and cell phone.
• It is easy to put on: a buckle at the waist and one behind the neck.
• It’s safe. (At least, it passed all of my indoor safety tests.)
• It comes in nice, neutral colors. None of those “hip parent” patterns that are supposed to be stylish and (unless all of your clothes go with leopard) require you to buy one to match every outfit.
• It’s durable and washable, which makes it a good product to borrow–from someone who isn’t planning to have a baby anytime soon–or buy used.
• Best of all: It transforms into a hip carrier and a backpack carrier, and can hold a child up to 40 pounds.

Whew! Looks like I’ve licked the baby-transporting problem for the foreseeable future.

Now if only I could figure out an equally elegant solution for transporting baby (and bus chick) stuff. Stay tuned…

Chicklet in Ergo (Photo credit: Espressobuzz
Chicklet in her Ergo Baby, after a 4 ride to the opening of Pryor Studios

And while I’m at it…

BCiT, n: Bus chick in training. A young person, usually under the age of 12, who is learning the bus-riding ropes. A BCiT always rides with an experienced bus chick while she masters basic bus survival skills, such as when to ring the bell, how and when to pay, and appropriate bus behavior–and then more advanced skills, including schedule-reading, trip-planning, and street safety. If she shows promise, she is permitted to ride without a mentor, and, eventually, initiated into the sisterhood of full-fledged bus chicks.

Another glossary update

Bus crush, n:

1. Feelings of overwhelming admiration–occasionally, though not necessarily, of a romantic nature–for a fellow passenger; excessive interest in, or curiosity about, a fellow passenger.
2. The object of such admiration or interest.

My biggest bus crush was (and still is) Bus Nerd, but I have minor bus crushes–on women, men, young, old, passengers, drivers–all the time. There was the mother-daughter team that used to ride my morning 48 to Montlake Elementary. The mother: in her early thirties; pretty; with flawless chocolate skin, a simple, pulled-back hairstyle, and a great fashion sense. Her daughter: an eight-year old, curly-headed BCiT who reminded me of myself when I was a young bus chick, minus the awkwardness, the shyness, and the “summer haircut” (a post for another time, my friends), and plus a rather unfortunate fondness for pink. I stopped seeing them years ago, but fortunately, I have my own little BCiT to ride with these days. There are the three siblings–a big brother, a little brother, and a baby sister–I see all over the city, on several bus routes and sometimes walking, never with parents. The big brother is in charge, looking after and scolding the younger two, and I make up all kinds of romantic stories about this threesome, most of which involve variations on a Party of Five theme. There is Georgiana, the cool grandma and 27 regular I finally met this year at my precinct caucus, after years of admiring her from afar. And of course, there is Smooth Jazz.

Your turn. Ever had a bus crush?

But don’t take it from me, part II

I’m not the only one who takes bus vacations.

From today’s Seattle Times:

Riding Metro’s Route 255 from Kirkland, I’d begun my “travel-by-bus vacation,” an experiment inspired by Rick Steves, Edmonds’ budget-travel guru, whose guidebooks extol using public transportation in European cities to save money, see the sights and meet locals along the way. It works there; it could work here.

After one trip, I was hooked. The journeys were as interesting as the destinations. Routes wound through neighborhoods I’d have never found on my own. It was continuous sightseeing.

Even paying full adult fare, the trips were incredibly cheap. I paid more for a double-tall latte at Snoqualmie Falls than I did for the round-trip fare to get there from my hometown of Kirkland. And not a single stop for $3.75-a-gallon gas.

This writer’s local travels included: Ballard (one of this bus chick’s favorite places to visit), Snoqualmie Falls (I told you!), and Vashon Island (a bus + ferry excursion). When she’s ready to move to Level II, we’ll hip her to Hike Metro.

Thanks for the link, Matt.

But don’t take it from me…

Detroit bloggers love buses, too.

From O Street on The Detroit Free Press site:

I met him in grade school, a big yellow something, and we’ve been involved with each other in some variation — public transportation, Greyhound, shuttle — ever since.

It’s an on-again, off-again relationship, depending on the circumstances of my chaotic life.


Oneita the Blogger loves to sit in the back of the bus and make observations. There is much to discover on the stress-free trips, many conversations to listen in on and to initiate. Great blogging material. I get lost in my reading and in my thoughts.

And I save money.

Now that gas is sticking out its tongue saying na-na-na-na-naaaa, I’ve decided to strike up an acquaintance again: I’m getting a bus pass.

Gas for my car for one week at $4 a gallon is $72. (It was $20 a week when I moved here.)

A DDOT bus pass for the month is $47.


I’ve cut back on trips, slowed way down and I’m shopping closer to home. I get rides with friends. My discretionary spending is more discreet. All that is good, but I need to make a change I can really measure. Not driving is one way to keep more money in my pocket.

Maybe I’ll get a bike before the summer is over.

The next time we’re in the D, I’m looking this woman up.

What’s a little cell-phone talking compared to the future of Puget Sound?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a sunny Saturday afternoon at Green My Ride, that alternative transportation fair in Phinney I told you about. It was a great event, and not just because there were two different booths selling cookies the size of my face. It was well-planned, informative, and fun, with tons of information and encouragement to help people change their transportation habits.

My favorite part of the fair was the Environmental Jeopardy (pun intended, I assume) game at the Seattle Parks booth. Bill from the Piper’s Creek Watershed Project played host, presiding diplomatically over my bitter (if not unexpected) loss to Bus Nerd. I swear, the man beats me at every contest we undertake, be it physical or mental. It seems that the only thing I can do better than him is speak French, and that’s just because I had a substantial head start. But I digress.

The board, mid-contest

The game was fun despite my loss, and I learned a lot (more) about the environmental impacts of driving. A statistic of particular note: Each year, through stormwater runoff from roads and parking lots, Puget Sound experiences an oil spill that is over half the size of the Exxon Valdez (roughly 7 million gallons). Talk about a good reason to ride!

I would have told you about this sooner, but I never got around to contacting Bill to get his source. Fortunately, he remembered to contact me–and to send me the Seattle Times article where he found the information. It’s worth taking the time to read.

It’s also worth taking the time to find out more about the Piper’s Creek Watershed Project, an effort largely responsible for restoring the salmon population in Carkeek Park.

The Piper’s Creek Watershed is a drainage basin in the northwest corner of the City of Seattle, including parts of the Greenwood, Crown Hill, Broadview, and Blue Ridge neighborhoods. Although some water comes from underground springs, most of the water in Piper’s Creek (in Carkeek Park) comes from stormwater … running off the roofs and pavement in these neighborhoods. In 1990, after three years of work, a dedicated committee … completed the Piper’s Creek Watershed Action Plan. Since then, the work directed by this plan has resulted in many improvements in the Piper’s Creek Watershed.

After you’ve read the rest of the project’s annual report (on the bus, of course), you can sign up to receive e-mail updates from Bill and his cohorts. Then, you can use your newfound knowledge to make more Watershed-friendly choices–or at least to give Bus Nerd a run for his Environmental Jeopardy money.

Speaking of bus fouls…

Given the recent discussion about cell phone conversations on the bus, I thought I’d share this PSA, spotted earlier today on an eastbound 27:

Cell phone PSA
“Too much. Too loud. Please be courteous when using your cell phone on the bus.”

I realize I’m probably in the minority on this, but I don’t find anything inherently wrong with cell-phone talking in transit. After all, you can’t expect silence on the bus. Folks are talking to each other, babies are crying, the driver is calling out stops over the PA … you get the picture. If the conversations are quiet and about subjects that are appropriate for public consumption, I don’t see the harm. When they’re not, the problem isn’t cell phones; it’s rudeness. Loud, personal conversations are a no-no, whether on the phone or in the flesh.

Even though I’m not a big bus phone-talker, I think having the option is one of the (many) advantages of public transportation. Drivers must pay attention to the road, while we transit types can use our travel time as we see fit (see below)–even, if we so choose, to check on a restaurant reservation or catch up with Mom.

Your turn.