Monthly Archives: August 2008

Carfree Sundays, part II (or, Now this is more like it)

The sun did, indeed, shine on Columbia City today.

No cars allowed (except police cars, that is)

For a few minutes after I passed the barricade, I stayed on the sidewalk (30+ years of conditioning are hard to overcome)–until I realized I didn’t have to. What an exhilarating feeling to step off the curb and stroll down the middle of the street!

Columbia City Bakery's sign
Carfree Columbia City

Hoops, hopscotch, and hula hoopin’:

Street b-ball
Street hopscotch
Hula hoopin' en masse

Dancin’ in the street:

Dancin' in the street

Props to the excellent DJs, who quadrupled (at least) my enjoyment.

A bicycle-powered blender:

A carbon-free smoothie

A streetwalk cafe:

Nerd and Chicklet eat in the street

Folks clamoring (as usual) for undriver licenses:

Undriver licensing

Except these two, that is:

Driving on carfree Sunday

Street art:

Street art in Columbia City
Street art in Columbia City
Street art in Columbia City
Streets are for people


Saving service

For the past several weeks, since hearing news of Metro’s dismal budget outlook (higher than projected fuel costs, lower than projected sales tax revenues), we transit types have been wondering whether we’d be faced with service cuts, fare hikes higher than the original 25-cent proposal, or both. Folks, hold on to your bus passes: We might not have to deal with either.

Today, Ron Sims is proposing a “plan C” that this bus chick can get behind. From the KCCK himself:

I fundamentally believe that a robust transportation network that moves people between their homes and their jobs is critical to our long term economic prosperity. An accessible, reliable and affordable public transportation system is vital to our community. Moreover, reducing the number of cars on the road is essential to reducing carbon emissions and protecting our environment. Thus, we must do all we can to keep our buses running and maintain our existing transit service. We must also remain steadfast with the implementation of the service expansion we promised voters when we asked them to approve the Transit Now initiative.

Therefore, I am proposing a measure that will not reduce bus service and will limit our [fall] fare increase to 25 cents … with another 25 cent increase in 2010.


These fare increases, however, by themselves will not be enough to make up the financial shortfall over the next two years. Rather than reducing services, I further propose that the shortfall be covered by the sale of some Metro capital assets such as the Bellevue Metro site worth approximately $18 million and by cutting capital projects totaling approximately $65 million. In addition, I propose to spend operating and capital reserves of approximately $45 – $60 million. This is an appropriate time to use these rainy day funds given the unprecedented financial storm pounding Metro today.

I admit I don’t fully understand the implications of the asset sales (the Bellevue property, at least, is not currently being used), and Lord knows I’m not a fan of fare increases, but given Metro’s funding constraints and service obligations, this seems like a reasonable (and reasonably creative) response to the crisis. Now is the time for more transit and more incentives to ride, not cuts. Sims’ proposal keeps us from losing ground–at least until we can identify more progressive (and predictable!) sources of transit funding.

Carfree Sundays, part I

Today, 14th Avenue East was closed (to cars, that is), from Republican to the park. I didn’t make it over there until close to 4, when it was pouring down rain and (even though the event wasn’t scheduled to end until 6), the Cascade Bicycle Club representatives were closing down their tent.

Seattle's first carfree Sunday
14th Ave E with no cars and–thanks to the rain–no people

Despite the uncooperative weather (hey–I’m sure the plants appreciated the drink), CBC’s commuting specialist, Chris Cameron, seemed pretty bullish. Apparently, folks were out in force earlier in the day, enjoying the taste of freedom and community that is possible when cars aren’t present.

Here’s hoping the sun shines on Columbia City next week.

“Mom”ing, bus chick style

Since Bus Nerd and I announced we were expecting a baby, folks have been taking bets on how long it would be before we bought a car. Most are shocked that we are even attempting car-free parenthood and see our choice either as some sort of noble sacrifice or stubborn attempt to prove a point. Either way, they consider raising a child without a car to be difficult and limiting.

So far, we haven’t found it to be so. If anything, busing with Chicklet has expanded our options and freed us from many of the encumbrances of conventional American parenthood. Case in point:

Way back in April, I wrote about my rather calamitous first post-Chicklet ride home from work. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard any equally insane commuting stories since, it’s because my return to work was short-lived. When Bus Nerd’s parental leave ended in May, I left my job, with the intention of returning to paid work after Chicklet’s first birthday. I’ve spent the past several months bonding with my daughter, making progress on several personal and volunteer projects, and generally enjoying the summer.

I was able to make the choice to leave work temporarily because of our family’s low expenses and high savings rate, both of which we can attribute (at least in part) to our bus-based lifestyle. With annual transportation costs roughly $16,000 lower than the average two-car family’s, we are able direct more of our resources toward what’s important to us.

Thanks to Metro, Chicklet and I got to spend her first summer together. And thanks to Metro (and our neighborhood), we’ve had a great time. Using nothing more than our bus pass, the Ergo, and my two feet, we’ve been to the beach (Did I mention she loves the Water Taxi?), the lake (on Ye Olde 27), the pool, the Market, cookouts and celebrations with family and friends, tons of parks and libraries, and more “storytimes” than I care to admit.

Of the countless benefits of riding the bus, this just might be the sweetest.

Sister, can you spare a dime?

Tuesday, Eastbound 5th & Jackson stop, 8:40 PM

Fellow TAC‘er Miranda and I are discussing the future of transit in the region while waiting for our respective buses (me: 14, her: 36) home from the August meeting. A man approaches and asks if we can spare 50 cents. He has to get to the shelter by nine.

“And,” he adds, scratching his nether parts for emphasis, “I’ve got a rash.”

Wednesday, Westbound 23rd & Jackson stop, 5:00 PM

Chicklet and I are awaiting the 14, headed downtown to catch the 55 to my youngest brother‘s birthday celebration dinner. A woman approaches and asks, in a familiar, can-I-borrow-your-pen tone, “Hey, do you have an extra quarter?”

My wallet being close at hand (in the Ergo Baby‘s handy front pouch), I pull it out to check. As I open it, she adds, “Or an extra dollar?”

The wallet contains a 20 and a dime, so I tell her I don’t have what she’s looking for. The cheerful tone changes abruptly.

“Go to Hell!” she snaps. Then, “Some people just shouldn’t have children. I bet you’re on SSI.”

Speaking of winners…

Metro selected co-OOYs for 2007.

Boehmer and Chappelle: 2007 Operators of the Year (photo credit: King County)

Every year, the best King County Metro Transit bus drivers are asked to select the single best operator from their own group. This year, they couldn’t do it. Instead, they doubled up on the excellence and voted for two of their peers to receive Metro’s top award.

Metro drivers Richard Boehmer and Nate Chappelle were surprised to hear they were sharing “Operator of the Year” honors.

Between them, Richard Boehmer and Nate Chappelle have 59 years of service behind the wheel for Metro, including 50 years of accident-free driving and dozens of commendations from customers. …


Boehmer has been driving for Metro since 1979. … He currently drives Route 222 serving Bellevue.

Chappelle has worked for Metro since 1978, and currently drives on all of the trolley routes.

If you dig bus drivers as much as I do, you’ll want to read the whole article.

I never take the 222, so I doubt I’ll have the pleasure of riding with Mr. Boehmer. Trolleys, on the other hand, I take almost daily. Surprisingly, Mr. Chappelle doesn’t look familiar, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open from now on.

And since everybody’s doing it:

Two winners this year
Both work hard, help passengers
Do they share a ring?

And the winner is…

I’m going with DreadPoetJethro and his bus/shoe haiku:

Convenient FlexShoe
Gets you to destinations
Where buses don’t go

What’s with the popularity of haiku these days? I haven’t written one since fourth grade. Of course, I’m not exactly a talent in the poetry department… I digress.

I especially enjoyed DPJ’s follow-up poem:

Oops! FlexShoe is now
Known by newer name: ZipShoe
(They added Velcro)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still missing “FlexShoe.”