Monthly Archives: July 2008

Trickle down

High fuel prices + lots more riders = a major budget shortfall, and hence, Ron Sims is proposing another 25-cent fare increase.

With Metro Transit ridership and diesel fuel prices at record levels, King County Executive Ron Sims on July 3, 2008 announced he will preserve current service and continue delivering new service by proposing a 25-cent fare increase. Sims opted for the proposed increase rather than cut service to pay for fuel costs that have skyrocketed over 60 percent this year alone.

“This worldwide fuel crisis comes at a time of historic ridership growth for Metro Transit–and is the reason why residents are turning to transit in record numbers as their own budgets are squeezed,” Sims said. “But the same rising fuel costs contributing to Metro’s popularity are making it more expensive to deliver service and maintain aggressive transit-growth plans.

If the Council approves the proposal, it will take effect on October 1st.

I don’t have much to say about this, except–yet again–that it’s time to get serious about finding creative, progressive ways (other than fares and sales taxes, please) to increase funding for transit. We said we wanted folks to ride, right?

Performance anxiety

Overheard on a Sunday trip to Fremont:

Westbound 14 stop, 23rd & Jackson, 2:30 PM

A dad and his two elementary-aged daughters are preparing to head downtown for some summer fun. As the bus pulls up, the dad turns to the younger of the two girls.

“Remember Hannah, you’re in charge of putting the money in.”

The little girl nods but looks slightly apprehensive as she steps into line. Just before boarding, she grabs her father’s hand and thrusts her fistful of bills at him.

“Daddy, I want you to do it!”

Eastbound 26 stop, 4th & Battery, 3:00 PM

Four women carrying folding chairs block the bus doors as they talk among themselves.

Woman 1: “Let’s see, if you can break a five, I can pay for her, and then she can buy me a coffee…”

The driver, who is far behind schedule and has already dealt with lift drama, downtown traffic, and a malfunctioning back door: “Ladies?”

Woman 2: “Sorry–we’re just trying to get our money together.”

Driver, exasperated: “It’s pay as you leave, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your money together.”

Woman 3, to the others: “See? I told you! It’s traumatic to ride the bus sometimes.”

Speaking of bus drivers…

Remember Rene, the car-free bus driver from the class I took in February of ’07? Just in case you don’t:

Irony of the day: The class instructor, Jeffrey…included an article about the high cost of car ownership in the class materials. One of the students, Rene, who has been car-free for 15 years, said that his job as a bus driver makes this choice extremely difficult. After all, someone has to get to (or from) the base when the buses aren’t running.

Rene went on to say that, according to his calculations, if he took a $10 cab ride to work every day and rented a car for two months out of the year, the total cost would be less than half the cost of a year of owning the two-year old vehicle he was considering purchasing. “I’m going to try that,” he said. “I’d really like to avoid buying a car if I can.”

Now that’s my kind of driver.

I ran into Rene at Busfather’s retirement party, and I am happy to report that he is still car-free. His solution was to move downtown, where he has easy access to almost unlimited buses, and the base is a straight shot from his place. The increased rent doesn’t come close to matching what it would have cost him to own a car (even before gas cost a grip)–or even the cab-and-rental solution he was considering.

Rene the car-free bus driver

All that and he likes driving the 48? Too bad I don’t get to vote for Operator of the Year.

June Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to a man who’s been getting folks there for 38 years, the driver of all drivers, Mr. John “Busfather” Fabre. Some of you might remember Busfather from his Operator of the Year award ceremony back in May of 2006. Here’s a little bit from Metro about why he won:

“John has received multiple commendations from passengers, always the sign of an exceptional bus driver,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “In this case, the commendations have a common theme – that John is extraordinarily kind, courteous and helpful towards his passengers.”

After a long career driving every vehicle (and darn near every route*) that Metro operates, John has decided to hang up his uniform. Last Friday was his last day driving. Here are some photos from his retirement celebration, held at Ryerson Base this afternoon:

Busfather shrine
Cake for Busfather's retirement

Busfather got his name from his Operator of the Year “championship” ring (which folks were actually kissing at his award ceremony), and from his I’m-cool-but-don’t-cross-me vibe.**(This is a very good quality in a person responsible for maintaining order and for keeping things running on time.)

Our hero (third from left) showing off his ring with some fellow OOYs:

Metro Operators of the Year

John drove the 2 waay back when I rode it to school in the 80s (yes, I’m pretty sure he was my driver a few times), but in recent years, he’s driven routes I don’t ride very often. Lucky for me, he lives down the street from our little bus family, so I see him around the neighborhood once in a while. He’s always cool and friendly, taking the time to shoot the breeze and share a few tidbits of Metro news.

Thank you, John, for your kindness, your commitment to excellence, and, especially, for spending 38 years of your life getting folks like me where they were going. Enjoy your well-earned rest.

* * * * * * *

*John has promised to e-mail me a list of all the routes he has driven in his career. As soon as I receive it, I’ll post it here.
UPDATE (6/3)
Here is John’s list:

74,99,ST570, monorail. [Metro used to operate it.]

…these routes have changed over the years. Just a few that I remember:
The #8 was the old Ravenna
The #6 was the Stoneway.
The #12 was the 12 E cherry and 12 26th Ave. So.
The #22 was the Roosevelt
The #48 went from Rainier and Martin L. King Jr. Way to 45th and Brooklyn. It was a short route compared to now.

He also sent some great photos–much better than my bus-chick-come-lately pics. I’ll post a few of them if I ever get a moment.

**Then again, a fair number of people at his OOY ceremony and at today’s party asked if I was his daughter (even I admit that we do kind of favor), so it seems that one could interpret it in another way.