Monthly Archives: May 2009

Car-free living: not just for city folk

VAUBAN, Germany — Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here.

(Source: NYT, via Bus Nerd)

Apparently, plans are in the works for something similar in the Bay Area called Quarry Village.

Yes, please.

Speaking of strollers…

For a variety of reasons, Bus Nerd and I are not especially big on baby gear. Most of what we do have we either borrowed from friends or purchased used. So it is particularly ironic that the one piece of baby gear we bought brand, spanking new–and paid a small fortune for, I might add–is the one we almost never use: Chicklet’s car seat.

Like all parents, we wanted our kid’s seat to be safe, and we were concerned about buying a used one. (When an environmentalist tells you it’s not a good idea, it gives you pause.) But here’s the thing: In order to use the seat, which weighs 15 pounds and is big enough for me to fit in, I have to get it–and Chicket–to an actual car. Let’s just say that renting a Zipcar (the nearest one’s a quarter of a mile from our house) without the help of Bus Nerd is less than enjoyable.

Ah, but if I’d done my homework, I would have known that there is a better option. Car-free parents, behold:

A car seat with wheels
A car seat/stroller combo

A car seat with wheels?! Who knew?

I learned about this fabulous invention from fellow TAC member–and fellow parent–Tina, who uses it on those occasions when her family takes a cab to the airport, and when they travel to places where they’ll need a car. Tina says the seat’s not especially comfortable, but, given that Chicklet rides in a car an average of once a month, that’s hardly a deal breaker. Did I mention that both of the brands I researched got high marks in the safety department?

Anyone in the market for a (gently) used Britax?

Anatomy of a bus mom

Front-pack carrier and lightweight stroller*?

Bus mom with Ergo


Stories for the ride?

Bus mom reading stories


Extra time for hugs?

Bus mom waiting for 48


* I rarely travel with a stroller, but the day I rode with this woman I had mine. (Chicklet and I were heading to Green Lake for a walk.) Just like me, this bus mom had her baby in an Ergo carrier, and just like me, she had her lightweight stroller (the exact same brand, in fact) folded and leaning on the seat next to her. The only difference was that I had my wheels turned away from the seat, since dirt on seats is one of my bus peeves. :)

Eastbound 4, 10:40 PM (returning from the Amtrak station)

A very drunk man is holding court in the back of the bus. “Happy Mother’s Day, family,” he says to (sleeping) Chicklet, Nerd, and me as we make our way to our seats. He proceeds to say the same to everyone within earshot, including a young teenage girl who is holding hands with her boyfriend in the adjacent seat.

Drunk man’s friend: “Who all you going to say that to, man?”

Drunk man: “Everybody. To the young ladies, I say ‘Happy Mother’s Day to be.'” Some folks say to me, ‘Oh, I’m not a mother; I missed my opportunity,’ but I tell ’em, ‘It takes a village, and you’re part of that village, so happy Mother’s Day to you, too.'”

A bus-chick-friendly holiday

The Bus Fam has just (as in, 30 minutes ago) returned from another car-free mini-vacation to Vancouver. (More on the trip sometime next week.) The Friday train up there was sold out, so we had to take Amtrak’s overflow bus (so not the same). We did get to ride the train home today, which was especially cool, since it happens to be National Train Day.

A poster for National Train Day at King Street Station
A poster at King Street Station

Not a bad day to travel for a family of transit geeks. They gave Chicklet a sticker and everything.

On transit geeks and aging

My beloved Bus Nerd celebrated a birthday on Wednesday. He’s not old enough for a midlife crisis yet, but it did get us to thinking:

How, exactly, does a bus nerd of a certain age attempt to recapture his youth? Yes, he can chase after younger bus chicks or get hair plugs, but what’s a middle-aged bus nerd’s equivalent of a red sports car?

Any thoughts? I’d like to be prepared.

Catching up, part II

• Metro gave a preview of the new Rapid Ride buses on Tuesday.

A KC Metro Rapid Ride bus(Photo credit:

Sexy, no? The interiors aren’t bad, either.

And the agency had some more good news*:

…acting FTA Administrator Matt Welbes announced his agency is immediately releasing $13.8 million dollars to help fund the acquisition of new articulated hybrid-electric coaches and other system improvements to support Metro’s first RapidRide line. The funding will help pay for 16 new buses, various station and shelter enhancements and real-time information systems for the “A Line” serving the cities of Tukwila, Sea Tac, Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way beginning in 2010.

This is a good thing, since KC Metro is beyond broke at this point–and in the process of trying to figure out which existing service to cut.

•If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, watch the Streetfilm, “The Search for the Zozo.” I won’t even try to explain it. I’ll just say that it’s a bit different from the usual Streetfilms fare, and, if you’re in the mood for silly (Who isn’t these days?) it’s worth the watch.


• Pierce Transit driver Brentt Mackie won first place in the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Bus Roadeo. (Yes, people, there is really such a thing.)

From an APTA press release:

Lakewood, WA – For the second time in three years, Pierce Transit Bus Operator Brentt Mackie has been awarded the First Place trophy in the 40-foot Transit Coach Division at the 2009 International Bus Roadeo that just concluded in Seattle.


The Roadeo competition requires drivers to maneuver their vehicles through an intricate maze of graded exercises that includes serpentine turns, passenger stops, and reverse turns that duplicate the demanding requirements of everyday driving. The final exercise is high-speed braking where operators maneuver through a row of ten 55-gallon barrels spaced only inches wider than the bus.

Whoa. I want to be on his bus.

Brentt “Skillz” Mackie

This year, the festivities were held here in the 2-0-sickness. Seattle Transit Blog has the scoop on the other Washington State winners.

• Seattle police are cracking down on drivers who don’t stop at crosswalks.

Seattle police are sending more pedestrian decoys onto city crosswalks, to nab drivers who blow through without stopping.


Seattle tends to rank among the safest U.S. cities for pedestrians. Nonetheless, 468 car-pedestrian collisions were reported to police last year, said Gray. She is project manager for the city’s new Pedestrian Master Plan, soon to be released, which calls for more enforcement.

(Source: Seattle Times)

This issue was also one of the topics on KUOW’s The Conversation on Tuesday.

* I don’t have a link to the online version of this press release, but I will post it as soon as I do.

Catching up

After 21 post-free days–the longest hiatus I’ve taken from this blog in the three (plus) years I’ve been writing it–I return (project: complete, Chicklet: healthy and enjoying her bus rides more than ever), determined to reestablish a more regular posting schedule in May.

I’ve had about a zillion bus adventures since I last checked in–far too many to write about. The good news is, there will be many zillions more.

On to the transit news of note:

I trust you all noticed that Metro’s website has new and improved home page. It’s the beginning of a long-overdue update/upgrade to make the site more relevant, responsive, and usable. Some highlights: Trip Planner entry fields are now on the home page (not three clicks away); the navigation is simpler; and there are “quick” links to important stuff like Orca information and Tracker. It ain’t perfect (yet), but it’s a good start.

The Orca payment system is live. As it happens, my annual pass expired on May 1st, so I’m now using an Orca card. This month, I’m trying the “e-purse” only, which means that I didn’t purchase a pass; the money I loaded onto the card is deducted as I ride. Since I’m not commuting five days a week anymore, and, since, with Orca, paying cash is as convenient as paying with a pass (more on that later), I figured it was worth it to find out how much money a pass actually saves me.

I had a few glitches at first–it took a couple of days for the money I added online to register in the system, and a couple more days for transfers to work correctly–but everything seems to working fine now.

What I love:

• You don’t have to buy a pass to have the convenience of a pass. If you’re an infrequent rider, you can add money to your e-purse and use your card when you need it. No more worrying about having correct change or keeping track of transfers.
• If you do buy a pass, you can add extra money to your e-purse for trips that exceed the pass’s value. Beautiful!

What I don’t love:

• Annual passes are no longer an option. I have no idea why.
• Orca’s web interface for loading money and buying passes–especially for people with new cards–is confusing. It’s not clear up front how to buy a pass, and it’s also not clear if you can use the money you load into your e-purse to purchase a pass (you can’t).

On the whole, though, I’m loving the change.

Anyone else have thoughts about Orca–or, for that matter, Metro’s new home page?

* This includes, believe it or not, the period after my mother’s death and the period after Chicklet’s birth.