Monthly Archives: December 2008

Creative commuting (or, more snow talk)

Yesterday, Bus Nerd and I finally accepted that weather/transportation conditions were not going to improve on our timeline and decided to make our way downtown, despite the limited-to-nonexistent bus service and ridiculously treacherous sidewalks in our neighborhood.

The 48 was the only one of our six regular buses that was even running (they don’t call it Metro’s Heavyweight for nothin’), and the 48 doesn’t go anywhere near downtown. We were not deterred. Our options were:

1. Take the 48 south to Rainier & McClellan and transfer to the 7.
2. Take the 48 north to Montlake and transfer to a westbound 545 or 255.
3. Walk down Jackson to the ID and transfer to a 7, 36, or 42. (Our neighbor, Casey, who works in Renton, has been walking down Jackson to catch the 101, so we knew it was doable.)

We opted for option 3. My experience Saturday left me a little skittish about bus crowding/getting passed up, so I liked the idea of being close enough to downtown to walk the rest of the way. Which is what we ended up doing.

Despite the challenges of maneuvering Chicklet’s light, bus-friendly stroller on the snowy/slushy/icy sidewalks, it wasn’t that bad. I was glad to be moving my behind for the first time in several days, and we actually made it all the way downtown before we even saw a 7, which was packed, Mumbai style.

We opted to walk (well, aside from a 70 ride to 3rd & Jackson) home, too. I was so not trying to be a part of the 17 zillion-person standoff on Third Avenue, prepared to fight just to cram myself in like a sardine and creep down a snowy street to another (cold!) bus stop and repeat the process. I’ll spare you the gory details of the journey home (after dark, on halfway melted sidewalks, with a snowsuited-up chicklet who was totally over it and then some) and just say that we were glad when we finally made it to our warm home.

In the walkway, we ran into our neighbor, Julieta, who was returning from a two-and-a-half hour trip home from her job in SoDo: packed ride on the 21 north to Union > long wait > packed ride on the 42 south to McLellan > long wait > packed ride 48 north to home.

I think she’s considering walking tonight.

Oh, Santa…

As you know, I ain’t one to hawk products [ahem], but this might just be the answer to my chick/chicklet bag dilemma.

The description even says it can be used as a “hip alternative diaper bag,” whatever that means. (You know you’re desperate to regain your cool when you’re willing to believe there’s such a thing.)

If only it came in other colors. I love buses and all, but school-bus yellow isn’t really my flavor.

No, no, no

Reroutes and delays I can work with, but I do have two busing-in-bad-weather pet peeves. Both are captured in this photo.

Crowd waiting for 14
Westbound 14 stop at 23rd & Jackson, 11 AM

BiBW peeve #1: Bus haters-turned-(temporary)-bus-lovers

There were 15 people waiting for the (almost-on-time) 14 with us, and I’m willing to bet that half of them hadn’t been on a bus in a decade. (How do I know, you ask? I have my ways.)

I’m hardly one to complain when folks try transit (no matter the reason), but I do think all these bus-chicks-come-lately (who won’t be back on a bus until it snows again) should be the ones who stand on the routes they’re crowding up. I say, those of us who’ve been down with Metro since day one should be able to reap the benefits of our loyalty.

Priority seating for frequent riders? Why, yes! After all, ridership has its privileges. Maybe we OG bus types should start getting “Rider since” dates printed on our passes.

BiBW peeve #2: Slippery sidewalks

The dirt truck made it to my street a day and a half after Thursday’s big snow, but the sidewalks still look like an ice rink right before the Zamboni does its thing. And I don’t live off the beaten path; I live at a major intersection (which is also a major bus hub). Even some downtown streets are completely covered in ice. I’ve heard tell that property owners are responsible for clearing their section of the sidewalk, but I don’t think they got the memo (I’ve yet to see any communication from the city on the subject), and it seems like a less-than-efficient way of handling the issue. In the meantime, walking anywhere (not just to bus stops) is extremely treacherous.

I realize that the city has its hands full right now (and is probably up to here with haters criticizing its handling of weather issues), but what’s up with that?

Ho, ho, ho

In the spirit of the season (and in the spirit of recycling–you know how we bus chicks do), some of my bus-friendly shopping tips, circa 2006:

Tip 1: Buy less. The simplest and most effective way to avoid the hassle of shopping without a car is to stop shopping so doggone much. Your decision to try life as a bus chick means you’re probably interested in conserving — your money, the world’s resources, or both — and spending less time at the mall will surely help you accomplish this.

Tip 2: Use a different kind of highway. If you don’t need a particular item immediately, consider ordering it online. If it’s a gift that has to be shipped, you save two trips: the first, to the store to buy the gift, and the second to the post office to mail it. In cases where you want to see an item before you buy it (or you don’t want to pay shipping costs), you can still use the Internet to research products and prices. That way, when you’re ready to buy, you’ll only have to make one stop.

Tip 3: Concentrate! The bus-based life is not well-suited to the “running around” that has become the norm in our consumer-oriented, car-centric culture. (And who says that’s a bad thing?) Shop in places that have a wide variety of stores concentrated in a small area, so you can take care of several purchases each time you make a trip. I tend to shop downtown, mostly because it’s the concentrated shopping area that is most easily accessible to me. And speaking of downtown…

Tip 4: Shop on your way. The next time you’re in the center of our fair city waiting for a transfer, try using that time to take care of business. When I’m downtown and in need of a particular item, I decide how much time I’ll need, check the schedule of the bus I’m waiting to catch, and then head to the nearest store that has what I need. If I’m not in the market for anything in particular but the wait between buses is especially long, I’ll use the down time “pre-shop” for stuff (greeting cards, vacuum-cleaner bags, printer cartridges — whatever I’m closest to) that I know I’ll need in the future.

Tip 5: Be Flexible. Most of the items people regularly shop for can be easily reached and carried home on the bus. (Note: If it’s big enough to take up a seat of its own, consider traveling during off-peak times.) For those times when you want to purchase an item that is outside the bus’s coverage area or that exceeds your carrying capacity (and the limits of your fellow riders’ patience), rent a Flexcar [er, Zipcar–doesn’t quite go as well with the heading, eh?]. For all you Craig’s Listers and garage salers: They even have pickup trucks.

I’m not that into shopping (OK, I hate it), so this is hardly expert advice, and–given that I try to think about this issue as little as possible–I haven’t come up with many new tips in the last two years. But, here are a few updates:

• If you’re fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with a variety of shops within walking distance, take advantage of them.
• Follow the advice of the waste-free holiday folks and buy experiences (tickets to concerts, plays, etc.) as gifts; they’re easy to carry home.
• When in doubt, buy the smaller one.

A nutcracker in shining armor

Bus Nerd and I have recently returned from a lovely evening out. (That’s two nights out in one week–a record since the arrival of Chicklet.) This time, we attended the opening-night performance of The Color Purple (27 + medium walk) and–thanks to my friend Kelley–a post-show reception with the cast.

Turns out, we weren’t the only bus types at the fancy party.

Prince Metro
“Prince Metro,” enjoying the cocktails and conversation at Pacific Place

No disrespect to Northwest Center (an organization that makes it easy for car-free types to donate clothing and household items), but maybe the proceeds from the sale of this particular nutcracker should go to Metro.

Transportation in the news

DC Metro refuses to share data with Google

Three years after the launch of Google Transit, which gives directions using transit on Google Maps, and after constant requests by riders and bloggers, WMATA’s Director of Customer Service, Brett Tyler, announced their decision that participating in Google Transit is “not in our best interest from a business perspective.”

(Source: Greater Greater Washington, via Streetsblog)

Link found between “active transportation” and lean population

New research illustrates the health benefits of regular biking, walking or taking public transportation to work, school or shopping. Researchers found a link between “active transportation” and less obesity in 17 industrialized countries across Europe, North America and Australia.


Americans, with the highest rate of obesity, were the least likely to walk, cycle or take mass transit … The authors say it’s more than lifestyle choices that lead Americans to use their cars more. [Can you say “carism”?] Europe’s compact, dense layout and infrastructure are more conducive to getting around without a car.

(Source: MSNBC)

More people in NYC, but not more traffic

As the city’s economy soared and its population grew from 2003 through 2007, something unusual was happening on the streets and in the subway tunnels.

All those tens of thousands of new jobs and residents meant that more people were moving around the city, going to work, going shopping, visiting friends. And yet, according to a new city study, the volume of traffic on the streets and highways remained largely unchanged, in fact declining slightly. Instead, virtually the entire increase in New Yorkers’ means of transportation during those robust years occurred in mass transit, with a surge in subway, bus and commuter rail riders.

(Source: NYT)

You know you’re a bus chick if… (part II)

A bus chick
You have a date with your husband at a holiday party in Bellevue, one which requires a fancy dress and high, high heels, and even though the temperature is below freezing and it’s expected to snow, you pass on Zipcar or calling a cab in favor of the warm, weather-ready 550.

You know you’re too much of a bus chick if…

After the party, when the temperature has dropped and the snow has begun in earnest, and you’re in a hurry to make it to your warm house to kiss your little chicklet, you are stuck waiting downtown on sore feet (for the 4, no less) for 15+ minutes.


Some updates to the original list:

• You have “stop sense”: On your regular routes, you know when to pull the bell to get off, even if foggy windows, darkness, or distance from the window prevent you from seeing outside. And speaking of bells…

• When riding in a car, you reflexively reach for an imaginary bell when you begin to near your destination.