Monthly Archives: September 2008

September Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to Cari A.: nurse, mom, and alternative commuter extraordinaire. I met Cari back in August (and she would have won the GT in August, had I managed to post the entry on the 31st), at a “Car-Free with Kids” event hosted by her employer, Children’s Hospital. Cari was one of the event panelists, so I got to hear firsthand how she buses to work with her two children, four-year old Ava and one-year old Grayson.

Ava and Grayson, who attend the Children’s on-site daycare and must commute along with their mom, deserve to share equally in this illustrious award. Ava, like most four-year olds, is obsessed with buses, and her repeated requests to ride eventually motivated Cari to try (and like!) leaving the car at home. Grayson, despite occasional attempts to, as his mom puts it, “lick the pole,” is a well-behaved bus passenger, who brightens the commutes of more than a few fellow riders with his squeezable cheeks (see below).

Cari and her kids live in Bothell and ride the 75 from a Children’s park & ride in Lake City to the hospital’s main campus in Laurelhurst. The 75 runs every eight minutes during peak hours, which means they don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule. And as for the actual bus time? The coolness factor (driver! bell! lift!) keeps Ava entertained for the 12-minute ride; snacks and toys keep Grayson in check.

Says our winner, “It’s not as difficult as you might think. It’s actually harder to get organized to go to the zoo for half a day than it is to ride the bus with my kids.” (Source: Children’s Hospital internal website [article author: Alison Link])

Cari, Ava, and Grayson wait for the 75 (Photo credit: Children's Hospital)
Our three winners, waiting for their ride home

Thanks, Cari, for showing us (and your children) that getting around–even for a busy, working mom–doesn’t always mean hopping in the car. After all, “a bus is like a massive, pimping SUV with 4000 horse power and lots of 45 inch wheels.” And you never have to fill up the tank.

A good driver day

Southbound 48, 2 PM: The man behind the wheel turned out to be the same man a longtime family friend brought to my nuptials, lo, those many (oh, was it only two?) years ago. I don’t actually know him, and until that ride, I had no idea he was a bus driver.

Tandy, props for your good taste in dates. How often does a bus chick get the chance to say to a driver, “Hey, I think you were a guest at my wedding!”

Eastbound 4, 8:30 PM: I rode with Smooth Jazz for the first time in almost a year. (The last time he was my driver, I think I was still busing while pregnant.) On this particular ride, he was dispensing his cool while politely fending off a rather forceful passenger-on-driver bus mack. Can’t say I blame the woman. If it weren’t for my amazingly fabulous Bus Nerd, I’d have a crush on Smooth Jazz.

Tourism for transit geeks

Our bus family spent the weekend (and then some) in Nerd’s hometown of Detroit, Michigan. (Yes, folks, the Motor City managed to grow at least one bus nerd.) We spent some of our visit downtown, checking out the new and improved Riverwalk, eating coneys and enjoying the fountain at Campus Martius Park, and (best of all) visiting the construction site of the soon-to-be-completed Rosa Parks Transit Center.

Rosa Parks Transit Center
Rosa Parks Transit Center
Rosa Parks Transit Center

Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished:

Future Rosa Parks Transit Center (Photo credit: Model D)

The transit center is planned as a 24-hour multi-modal transfer facility connecting passengers to DDOT, SMART and Transit Windsor Tunnel buses as well as to the Detroit People Mover. It consists of a 25,700 square foot three-level building and a central island with 12 bus bays. The building will host a cashier, retail, DDOT police and passenger seating as well as an AVL system that will show route schedules in real time.

(Source: Model D)

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’m feeling transit envy (I’ll take our bus system over Detroit’s any day), but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a few pangs–and not just because they get a transit center named after my shero.

24 hours? Indoor waiting area? Retail (which could be used to fund more service)? Must be nice.

Transit Now (but maybe not later)

Despite some pretty serious money problems, Metro is continuing to fulfill its promises to voters by expanding transit service in the region. This Saturday’s shakeup will include two new routes and increased service on many existing routes.

New routes: 157 (serving Lake Meridian P&R) and 215 (serving Issaquah and North Bend)

Routes with increased service: 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 26, 28, 41, 44, 46, 143, 153, 164, 209, 230, 253, 269, 915

(Oh, 27, why do the transit gods give you no respect? Do they not see how efficiently you zoom down Yesler, putting those excruciatingly slow trolleys [not to name names, but the single-digit routes on the list] to shame?)

Also, some good news for bike nerds: Starting on Monday, you can load your bike at any station in the transit tunnel, instead of only at the first and last stations.

You can find all the details in the county’s press release or in this article.

I am happy for the increased service, but–given that there are no prospects for a reversal of the agency’s financial fortunes–I’m worried about how long it will last. Metro needs to start lobbying the state (right now) to authorize more funding options for transit agencies; sales tax is hardly the most reliable or progressive. In the meantime, we need to work together as a community to identify revenue sources that don’t require state approval. Rochester, NY and Detroit provide some instructive examples.

Other possibilities: contracts with vendors at transit centers and in the bus tunnel, leasing (instead of selling) unused property, bake sales (kidding! sort of)…

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style

The last time I went to the Puyallup Fair was the summer before I left for college. I took my youngest brother, who was nine at the time, and I don’t remember much about it–except that it was my last chance to spend QT with my “baby” before I moved away from home and that the ride down there (in my dad‘s trusty Toyota pickup) was really long.

Today Chicklet, Nerd, and I did the Puyallup as a family (yes, I realize it doesn’t get much more lentement), and thanks to Pierce Transit, we did it our favorite way: on the bus.

Our itinerary:

1. 27 from home to Third & Seneca
2. 594 from Second & University to Tacoma Dome Station (This was our first time taking the 594. Talk about a comfortable ride!)
3. Pierce Transit’s Puyallup Fair Shuttle from Tacoma Dome Station to the fairgrounds (The shuttle also serves several other Pierce County locations.)

Total travel time, from front door to fair entrance: 1.5 hours (not much longer than driving, given the traffic, and we didn’t have to hassle with event traffic/parking)

Total cost, which included fare upgrades for my pass and Bus Nerd’s ticket on the shuttle: $3.00 (a heck of a lot cheaper than driving)

Waiting for Puyallup Fair shuttle
Waiting for our chariot
A view of the Mountain, from the PF shuttle
The view on the way there
Puyallup Fair bus parking
Bus parking at the fair
Chicklet napping in the Ergo
Chicklet’s version of a car nap

And speaking of cars…

Car stroller
These were available for rent at the fairgrounds
Cars for sale at the fair
And these were available for sale

Thanks to ST for the fast, comfortable ride to Tacoma and to PT for providing alt transpo to the event. We didn’t have any trouble or setbacks getting to and fro, so I don’t have any major complaints, but it certainly could have been easier to plan the trip. I had to use three different websites (ST’s, PT’s, and the PF’s) to find all the information I needed. (PT’s rider information line was the number listed for questions, but the office is closed Sundays.)

The fair wasn’t exactly my flavor (and not just because there was a car dealership in the middle of the grounds), but Chicklet certainly seemed to enjoy herself. She got to practice some of her favorite words–piggies!, cow!, kids!–and experience all kinds of new sights and sounds. For those of you who are interested in doing the same, the fair–and the shuttle–run until the 21st.

I’m a bus chick and I vote

Fellow transit types (and generally concerned citizens),

Want more transit–and more transit-friendly elected officials–in the region? Vote this fall (please). You can register online in less time than you spend waiting for a transfer.

Come on! Do it for Seattle. With no NBA season to look forward to, we’ll need something to celebrate in November.

Carfree Sundays, part III

The third and final carfree Sunday took place in my original neighborhood of West Seattle, so I didn’t mind the two-bus ride (4 + 56) to the festivities. (Then again, what’s two short rides compared to an unobstructed view of the Sound and the Olympics? I digress.)

West Seattle’s event was fun, but not as fun as Columbia City’s. (Thanks to the weather, Capitol Hill wasn’t even in the running.) Some reasons why:

• It wasn’t really car free. The far east lane of the street, which was separated from the activity with cones, remained open to all traffic. It wasn’t nearly as freeing or novel to play in the street with a line of vehicles inching by a few feet away.
• There wasn’t a concentrated point of activity. The street was closed (well, sort of–see above) from Seacrest Park on Harbor Ave all the way to the mini Statue of Liberty near the end of Alki Ave. Most of the activity was happening near the south end, so folks who jumped in farther north were likely disappointed.
• There was no music. This made a huge difference in the atmosphere and (my) general enjoyment.
• The majority of attendees were riding bikes. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing but love for my bike nerd brothers and sisters, and I certainly don’t begrudge them the chance to take advantage of a chance to ride–free of worry–in the street. As a pedestrian, though, I was somewhat ill at ease. It felt more like I was walking in the bike lane than attending a street festival.

Of course, all those issues are minor and can be worked out on future carfree days. On to the photos:

Carfree Sundays poster
“If Seattleites drive every vehicle 2,000 miles less a year (about 20 miles a week), we can meet our current climate pollution reduction goals.”
Open street
Street skateboarding
Street hula

I didn’t see the Undriving folks from Sustainable Ballard this time. (Maybe they decided one trip to West Seattle was enough for this year.) The “Yes on Prop 1” folks were out in force, though.

Mass Transit Now!

Despite the concerns of its manager, business at Duke’s didn’t appear to suffer:

A crowded patio at Duke's

The best thing about the West Seattle carfree Sunday was, of course, the view. There’s something about the combination of water, mountains, and sunshine that inspires romance.

Carfree Sunday street art
Carfree Sunday street art
Bus luh
Waiting for the Water Taxi shuttle: bus (stop) luh

Me? I’m having a romance with my city. I’m proud of our first attempts at carfree days and looking forward to more next summer (or sooner!).

I’ve been meaning to tell you about…

• State funding for more buses during viaduct construction
Record Metro ridership this summer (not such a big surprise, but worth noting)
No more Seahawks shuttle service

Sorry for not keeping you guys up to date on this stuff. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy to post, but the truth is, I’ve been completely obsessed with the upcoming election–both Prop 1 and the presidential stuff (OK, mostly the presidential stuff). I can’t stop thinking and reading about it; it’s even interfering with my sleep.

May I have my ballot now, please?