Monthly Archives: June 2008

My kind of transit etiquette

This man, spotted on a Sunday afternoon 26, was folding origami swans from old newspapers and handing them out to his fellow passengers.

Summer swans

I wish I had a better picture; the swans were really cool. And no, I cannot explain why he was wearing a wool hat and flannel shirt on a crowded bus (with no AC!) in the middle of 90+ degree day. Perhaps I should ask Bus Nerd, a man who insists on wearing a jacket and bringing an umbrella everywhere, no matter the season, forecast, or current temperature. Little old ladies at bus stops won’t have to worry about him being cold.

More on transit etiquette

Today, some self-described “SF Muni Ladies” hipped me to their new blog, Muni Manners: An etiquette guide for the transit savvy.

As loyal riders of San Francisco public transit (for longer than we’d like to admit), we’ve seen our commutes change with the rise of ipods and the fall of public decorum. Picking up where Miss Manners leaves off, this new kind of etiquette guide modernizes what our moms taught us in grade school about riding the Uncle Gus.

Love it! So far, there are only seven “etiquette rules,” but these ladies are on to something. Some recent Muni Lady admonishments:

Etiquette Rule # 7: Keep Your Eyes Open
You Snooze, We Lose

Etiquette Rule # 6: Use Nasal Discretion
Getting Picky

Etiquette Rule #5: Pick Up After Yourself
Every litter bit counts

Perhaps the next step is to enlist some Yokohama-style etiquette police to enforce these.

Muni ladies, I appreciated your rule about boarding the train (or bus, in our case), “Always let exiting passengers leave the train before you board.” The thing is: This is a standard rule of most major transit agencies; most folks just choose not to follow it. A more difficult, etiquette-related question (one I receive a lot and don’t really know the answer to): What’s the protocol for who boards first after everyone has exited? Is it based on who arrived at the station first? Elderly and less-able-bodied first? Some combination of the two?

Any insight would be much appreciated.

Keep up the good work!

And speaking of cool bus blogs…

Here’s one by a bus mom in San Francisco: That Baby is Cold.

This blog is dedicated to all the little old ladies at the various bus stops who tell me (daily) that my baby is cold. It doesn’t matter how many layers she has on, apparently she always “looks cold”. Don’t worry Granny, my baby is fine, you’re just old.

No disrespect to all the OG bus chicks (and OG moms) out there, but I can relate. People (and not just bus riders) love to give advice about what babies should be wearing, eating, playing with, and riding in. Sometimes the (unsolicited) advice is useful, but mostly, I just ignore it; Chicklet and I are pretty good at figuring out what she needs.

A recent adventure for the SF bus mom and her chicklet:

She’s So Hot, She’s Cold.

22 Outbound/ going home: A couple of weeks back we had some record setting hot days here in SF. We had a weekend of mid-high 90’s. Everyone was in shorts, flip flops, and the like. If we had been in Texas, I would have let the little one hang out in her diaper and nothing else. However there’s still a breeze here, so she was fine in one layer. I reveled in the heat. Finally, no one will tell me my baby is cold! She had on pants and short sleeve shirt, and a cute, white sunhat. As we were stepping on the bus, a 150 year old lady tapped my shoulder, “Doesn’t that baby have a jacket?” I looked at her, stunned. “Yes, ” I stammered, “But I didn’t want to melt her”. The lady laughed and said, “It might cool off later.”

Of course, we west coasters who have forgotten to take jackets to BBQs and summer concerts know that the “cooling off” thing is real, but still. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go find my little one’s sun hat. Happy 80-something Friday!

Speaking of TriMet…

A cool blog from a transit geek in Portland: Trimetiquette. Apparently, bus fouls are a problem there, too, since (as the name suggests) this person spends a good deal of time educating folks about proper transit etiquette.

I still think there’s a market for an advice column–a Dear Prudie devoted entirely to transit. Shoot–send me some questions, and I’ll start it up. I (sort of) already have.

Transit envy

Last Friday, Bus Nerd, Chicklet, and I headed to Portland (on the train!) to participate in the Towards Carfree Cities conference. (Actually, I was going to participate in the conference, and Nerd and Chicklet were going to hang around Portland. Minor detail.) It turned out to be a bad day to attend the conference (most of the good events happened earlier in the week) but a good day to learn more about getting around Portland. (Disclaimer: I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been to Portland–and on one hand the number of times I’ve been as an adult. Forgive me if this is old news to you Oregonphiles.)

I’ve been known to roll my eyes when folks start going on about how fabulously bikeable, walkable, and transit-friendly Portland is. It’s not that I don’t believe it; it’s just that I’m a bit of a Seattle partisan, and all that Portland love brings out the hater in me. Mostly, though, it makes me wish that my beloved hometown had grown smarter, with transit and biking as a focus, instead of ballooning into such a bloated, sprawling mess. But I digress.

I have to give credit where credit is due, and Portland deserves some credit for thinking outside the car. For starters, their train station is actually clean and inviting. (When is King Street’s interminable “remodel” going to be finished, anyway?) And, of course, there’s the bike thing. I could tell almost immediately that Portland is much more bikeable than Seattle (bike paths, bike parking, and bike nerds everywhere!), but I didn’t try to get around by bike while I was there (hey, I know my limits), so I can’t really speak about it.

Portland's train station
Portland’s train station (the inside ain’t half bad, either)
Bike parking at Powell’s

On to transit:

I’m extremely impressed by what Portland has going on. Though I was only there for one day, and I didn’t really venture beyond the downtown/waterfront area, I can say with confidence that Portland’s system (TriMet) is much more usable (and useful) than Seattle’s. Some reasons why:

The website! I could write an entire post just about this. It is clearly organized, with easy access to the information riders need (trip planner, how to ride, maps, etc.). To find out how to get to the conference location, I typed “Amtrak Station” and “Portland State University” into the trip planner entry fields on the home page and (immediately, without errors or a list of obscure locations I might have meant to enter) got several useful itineraries, complete with fare information, links to maps, and detailed information about the stops, including the stop IDs. All transit websites should be this good.

• The bus stops. At the big stops, the shelters tell you the intersection where the stop is located, so you don’t have to walk to the corner and try to read the signs. The signs tell you: the stop ID (which, unlike in Seattle, you can use for TriMet’s version of Tracker or the automated phone system), if you’re in the Fareless Square, and if the stop has frequent service.

A Portland bus shelter
A Portland bus stop

• The streetcar. Getting around the center city on that thing is a cinch. Since it’s a fixed route and there are maps available almost everywhere, you can (and we did) use it to get from the waterfront to PSU to Powell’s without knowing a single thing about Portland or its transit system. No asking the driver of whatever route happens to show up, “How far do you go down 3rd?” No hassles trying to figure out how to get from one corner of downtown to another without a long, uphill walk (favored by bus chicks but few others), a transfer, or a cab ride.

(Note: I might get my bus chick credentials revoked when I admit that I haven’t yet ridden the SLUT, but there it is. Yes, Chicklet keeps me pretty busy, and blah, blah, blah, but the truth is, it doesn’t go anywhere I need to be–or, at least, it doesn’t go anywhere I’ve needed to be since it began operating. I’ll check it out before the summer’s over, but to clarify: This is not a comparison of Portland’s streetcar and Seattle’s [except perhaps to suggest that Portland’s is more useful to a larger number of people] but rather, a comparison of how easy it is to get around the cities’ downtown areas.)

Chicklet learning about the Portland streetcar
Portland Streetcar: So easy, a baby could ride.

• Digital signs inside vehicles. We saw these on the streetcar and on buses. They are very helpful if you don’t know a city (and don’t have a husband who uses a personal GPS device with his nerd phone), are in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or can’t see out the window.
MAX light rail. I didn’t ride it, but it’s there. Enough said.

Other stuff of note:

• The streetcar had audio ads over the automated PA. They went something like this: “State street station, brought to you by the State Street Grill.” It was kind of creepy, but interesting nonetheless; I’m always keeping my eyes out for new ways to fund transit. Most of the ads I heard were for new condo developments. And speaking of…

A condo ad on the Portland Streetcar
“Forget the car. Live in the Pearl.”

• We ran into Vic and Julia from Sustainable Ballard/Undriving Ballard (he-ey, ladies!) on the streetcar. They were in town for the conference as well. Julia even presented earlier in the week.

Portland isn’t perfect, by any stretch. Like most (OK, all) US cities, it still feels very car-dominated. I’m also aware that, despite their proximity, Seattle and Portland are very different cities–in part because of differences in size and geography, and in part because of better planning on Portland’s part. Still, what I wouldn’t give to have a little of what they’ve got around here. How about we start with a new and improved website?

Dump that pump!

Dump the Pump 2008

It’s Dump the Pump Day.

On June 19, people across the country will “dump the pump” and ride public transportation on the Third Annual National Dump the Pump Day. This event is sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and more than 125 public transportation systems [including KC Metro and Sound Transit] will be participating nationwide.

The 2008 National Dump the Pump Day is a public awareness day that emphasizes how public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices and it encourages people to ride a bus or train instead of driving a car. This national day also highlights public transportation as an important travel option that helps combat climate change.

(Source: APTA)

In other words: Get on the bus today, people! (If you’re feeling really inspired [or broke], you can try giving your car the whole summer off.)

All you hardcore bus chicks and other transit geeks who, like me, visit gas stations only for restroom emergencies, consider participating by:

1) Encouraging someone you know to try the bus.
2) Breaking out your hottest outfit–to reward all those first-time bus riders for making the effort.
3) Being on your best bus behavior–no fouls today, please.
4) Providing feedback (today’s the last day!) on Sound Transit’s proposal for system expansion. (We’ve got to have someplace to put all the new riders our hot outfits and genteel behavior will attract.)
5) Playing this silly online game instead of working (unless, that is, you’re already taking the day off to celebrate Juneteenth). Hey, you already ride the bus; you’ve earned it.

A virtual open house

If you missed out on Sound Transit’s system expansion open houses this spring, you can still provide feedback on the agency’s proposal–which will be on the ballot this fall. (As if you didn’t have enough reasons to look forward to November.) All of the materials, including the questionnaire, are available on this page of Sound Transit’s site.

Update: The deadline for feedback is 5 PM this Thursday, June 19th, which also happens to be Juneteenth and 2008 Dump the Pump day.

What the kids are wearing these days, part II

Chicklet ain’t the only one who travels with one of these:

Keeping calm on a stressful ride
Keeping calm on the stressful ride

In case you can’t tell from my phone photo, that’s a pacifier in our young (but not that young!) bus chick’s mouth.* Maybe it helped her keep her cool in the midst of the rampant bus fouls taking place on that ride.

The photos aren’t clear enough to warrant an official caption it!, but if you’ve got a good one, don’t be shy.

* This actually isn’t a new phenomenon (remind me to tell you about my days as a high-school teacher), but it is the first time I’ve seen it on the bus.

Speaking of Portland…

The Towards Carfree Cities conference is a week away!

Towards Carfree Cities poster

In case you missed the first mention back in April, here are the relevant details:

What: A conference that “brings together people from around the world who work to promote practical alternatives to car dependence”
When: June 16-20, 2008
Where: Portland. Oregon (You can take the train!)
How much: Check the registration rates on the conference site.

Some stuff I forgot to mention the first time around:

1) The conference’s cool motto (a good enough reason to attend, as far as I’m concerned): “Live Free or Drive.” Props to the person who thought that up.

2) The free “Public Day” on the 17th:

We are committed to making this conference as inclusive as possible. If you are unable to attend for the entire week, please consider participating in our free events, such as Public Day on June 17th which features our keynote speakers, programs on Carfree Family Living and Portland’s Freeway History. Public Day is free and open to the entire community…

See you on TriMet!