Monthly Archives: May 2009

Caption it!

The Bus Fam’s off to spend a few days in the Motor City, during which we will hopefully participate in (or eavesdrop on*) many a bus-wide discussion.

In the meantime, please help me with a caption for this lovely photo Bus Nerd snapped while we waited for the 4 on Memorial Day.

Gone fishin'
Northbound 4/48 stop (23rd & Yesler), 3:40 PM

You will note that Nerd is more respectful and considerate than I; he chose to include only feet and legs in this one.

As always, the best caption wins the envy and admiration of the rest of us, less clever, transit geeks.

* It doesn’t actually count as eavesdropping if it’s a bus-wide discussion, but you get me.

Speaking of trains…

Northbound 42/48 stop @ MLK & Alaska, 1:30 PM:

Train's a comin'
Train's a comin'

More interesting than the trains, even, was the odd encounter Chicklet and I had on Alaska on our way to the stop. A man rolled down his truck window and hollered:

“Ma’am? Ma’am! I suggest y’all get somewhere. There’s a bear on the loose in Seattle!”

Trains in the tunnel!

Starting today, light rail will be running in the bus tunnel–to test the system before Link starts operating in July. From Sound Transit:

Here are some things to know about tunnel operations during the next two months:

• Buses will continue to stop in the same locations at each of the five tunnel stations. Customers will board the bus at the same bays;
• Light rail trains will not carry any passengers until July 18, but will be stopping at mid platform to simulate boarding during the weeks leading up to the launch. Initially trains will be arriving every 10 minutes in each direction at every tunnel station except Convention Place;
• Buses and trains traveling in the same direction will be controlled by a signal system that is designed to keep a safe distance between the vehicles;
• There could be some slight delays in bus service, as bus and rail staff become more familiar with using the new systems in real time;
• Basic tunnel safety is still important. Never cross the tunnel roadway. On the platform, stand behind the yellow safety strip. Be careful of gaps between the platform and vehicles when boarding and exiting buses. If there is an emergency, which requires exiting the tunnel, use the stairways located in each station. Do not use the elevators or escalators, because they will be shut down in an emergency; and
Starting Saturday, May 30, the DSTT [Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, that is] will be open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays and Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sunday for all current tunnel bus routes. When the DSTT is closed, tunnel bus routes will operate on Second, Third, Fourth or Fifth avenues in downtown Seattle.

I won’t be at the press conference this morning, and I’m thinking I should probably avoid the tunnel altogether between now and July 18th. I might just lose my mind and actually try to board one of those trains.

A nice ride if you can get it

This evening, we Saulter siblings (well, three of us, anyway)–along with our respective SOs and Chicklet–convened in our original neighborhood of West Seattle to celebrate our father‘s 70th birthday. The plan was to meet at a restaurant on Alki–as good an excuse as any for Bus Nerd and I to try the Water Taxi shuttle for the first time. (Yes, I’ve been riding the Water Taxi for years, but since my dad lives across the street from the Seacrest dock, and I only ride my favorite floating bus to visit him*, I’ve never had occasion to use the shuttle. I digress.)

Some advice to Water Taxi riders who have to get somewhere (for example, a restaurant that doesn’t hold reservations and won’t seat a party until everyone has arrived) by a specific time: Get your tails off the boat and to the shuttle stop ASAP, or have a backup plan.

We were somewhere in the middle of the pack of passengers disembarking, and by the time we made it to the shuttle, it was full. The driver told us she only had room for one more person, and–oh yeah–hers was the last shuttle run that evening. Have I mentioned that bus service from Seacrest to the beach is all but nonexistent? Back in the old days, Nerd and I would have probably just taken a cab, since we didn’t have time for a long walk, but, of course, we had Chicklet in tow and no car seat.

Fortunately, we had a rarely available option: nearby family. I rode the shuttle with Chicklet while Nerd hightailed it to my dad’s place to hitch a ride with him. The reservation was preserved, and a good time was had by all, including–and especially–the guest of honor.

P.S. – For those who are wondering: We took the 56 home.

*I usually ride the bus to other destinations in West Seattle, since riding the Water Taxi tends to take longer. Pier 55 is a decent walk from 3rd Avenue, and the WT schedule rarely lines up well with the schedules of the buses I ride downtown.

Northbound 48, 10:15 AM

A bus family (mom, dad, preschooler, toddler, and baby) is sitting in the very back, near a group of three teenage girls. After the family gets off, the girls begin to ridicule the children’s clothes, which are, to my eyes at least, perfectly unremarkable.

Girl 1: “I can’t believe they take their kids out looking like that.” [pause] “Then again, they didn’t look too hot themselves.”
Girl 2: “Yeah, it would be all wrong if they looked good and they let their kids go around looking shabby.”
Girl 1: “Yeah, if that was the case, and my kids didn’t have clothes, I would dress hella grimy.”

Transit envy, part II

Last weekend, Chicklet, Nerd, and I got our Vancity bus (and Skytrain!) on and loved every minute of it. We rode lots of shiny new trolleys, eavesdropped on Canadian conversations, and walked our tails off.*

As promised, the highlights:

Creative digital displays:

Sorry bus
Polite Canadian bus drivers apologize when they can’t pick you up.
Bus root for Canucks
Guess this one didn’t work out so well.

These messages alternate with the standard stuff: the route number, “out of service,” and et cetera. I imagine that the Canucks messages are annoying to some people, since it means you have to look longer to see which bus is coming, but we tourists enjoyed them very much.

Amazing views**:

View from Vancouver bus
Not a bad view from the C21
Vancouver bus stop
Not a bad place to wait for a ride.

Shelter ads:

Vancouver bus shelter ad
Vancouver bus shelter with advertising

The ads are tasteful and attractive (as ads go), provide additional light (and thus, improve safety), and most importantly, provide an additional source of revenue to Translink.

Metro has a demo shelter ad in the International District, but it’s the only one in the county. Metro can’t sell shelter ads because of city sign ordinances that prevent advertising in the public right of way. These ordinances were written to prevent billboards and absolutely need to be revisited. Surely, some sharp lawyers and legislators could craft language that would allow for this particular exception.

Lots o’ true transit geeks:

Ikea run
Bus chicks like Ikea, too.
Plant on bus
And bus nerds occasionally purchase house plants.

Folks up north are apparently not shy about transporting stuff on the bus. Methinks (and this is just a guess) it is because a fair number of people who live in the city live without cars.

Next time we visit, we’re staying for longer than 24 hours.

*Chicklet also got lots of beach time, and (while Chicklet napped in the Ergo) Nerd and I saw a cool exhibit at SFU about black communities in BC. Thanks for hipping us to it, Paulette.
**Of course, for this bus chick, Seattle’s views are number one on earth, but Vancouver is just a hair behind.

Transportation safety, part V

I know I’m late, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the bus safety issue everyone’s been buzzing about for the last couple of days. According to this article, “incidents” (which can range from theft to disruptive behavior to actual fights between passengers) reported by Metro drivers have doubled in the last ten years and have risen faster than ridership.

Despite the article’s rather provocative introduction, its basic conclusion is that KC Metro buses are extremely safe. There were fewer than five incidents per million rides in 2008, and less than half of those involved violence. Believe me, driving a car is a lot more likely to result in an injury (or, for that matter, a death) than riding the bus. I digress.

Just for fun, here’s the list* of routes with the most driver-reported incidents:

174 (ahem): 60
7: 52
358 (a-hem!): 34
106: 21
36: 18
120: 16
150: 15
14: 15
18: 11
2: 11

I’ve ridden all of these routes–a few of them I ride regularly–and yes, they have more than their fair share of trife. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt unsafe on a bus in Seattle.** Annoyed? Frequently. Bothered? Sometimes. Harassed? On occasion. Unsafe? Not even on the 174.

* I’m surprised there weren’t more trolleys on the list (3 and 4 are conspicuously absent). No disrespect, but those things are slow as all get-out, usually crowded, and hot in the summer.

** OK, except for that time on the 2 when I was in 4th grade.