Monthly Archives: July 2009

The obligatory (busing in) hot weather post

In the summer, I add an item to my long list of reasons to avoid the 4: Trolleys don’t have AC. Apparently, neither do most of Metro’s “wireless” coaches.

I’ve spent the last decade believing that all of Metro’s diesel buses were equipped with air conditioning. I’ve spent the last couple of months believing that all of my drivers were either mean; abiding by some official recession fuel-savings policy; or really, really cold natured. What I learned today, my friends, is that only 30% of Metro’s fleet is air conditioned. (Wonder if a perk of being OOY is driving a bus with AC?)

I’ve ridden on about five air conditioned buses (out of a zillion) since mid-June, and I’m starting to get a little cranky. I’m not mad at Metro for not investing in buses with AC*; we don’t (or at least, we didn’t) need it much in Seattle. I’m just hot.** Hot walking to buses. Hot waiting for buses. Hot riding on buses. Hot walking from buses. And, like almost everyone else in the city, hot at home.

Thank God for the library.

* I am, however, a bit curious about where else these older coaches were sold. Alaska perhaps?
**For those who are interested, the agency has a few (rather obvious) beat-the-heat tips on its website.

KC Metro’s finest

Ineke DeBoer, 2008 Operator of the YearCongratulations to Ineke DeBoer, Metro’s 2008 Operator of the Year. (Yes, I know I’m late with this.) Ineke may be the newest OOY, but she isn’t so new to driving buses. She’s a 30-year Metro veteran (currently driving the 31 and 68) with an excellent safety record and a personnel file full of commendations.

DeBoer, a native of the Netherlands, has been a full-time driver for Metro since 1979. She immigrated to the United States as a young bride, but sadly was widowed at age 21. She first found work as an interpreter for an airline based at Sea-Tac, and then joined Metro a few years later.

“Ineke speaks four languages, but most of all she communicates care and compassion in delivering her passengers safely to their destinations every day,” said Metro Operations Manager Jim O’Rourke. “Her safety record is great, and customers regularly take the time to call or send an email to tell us how much they enjoy her being their driver.”

DeBoer’s warm heart is well known in the community, too. She has been active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization for many years, and in 2002 was honored as “Big Sister of the Year” for the Pacific Coast region. She and her second husband, Metro Operator Richard Jensen, have an active family of children and grandchildren. They are known for their warm and friendly home, where any kid is always welcome.

A two driver family? Very interesting. Guess there are all kinds of bus couples.

Want to know more about King County’s new favorite bus driver? Read the full article, or watch a video of the ceremony.

Car-free with a kid: the challenges

I’ve spent the past 20 months (well, on and off anyway–I know not everyone’s as interested in hearing about my kid as I am in talking about her) telling you how much I enjoy busing with Chicklet. And I really do. I love spending one-on-one time on our travels. I love having extra time to read and talk to her. I love experiencing the excitement of riding through her eyes. I love that I am teaching her many of my values–conservation, equality, community engagement, thrift, to name a few–without having to say a word.

But, you know all that stuff. You also know that I wouldn’t have started this post reiterating everything I love about my car-free, child-full life, unless I was about to tell you about something I don’t love.

There are, in fact, several things I don’t love about car-free parenting. As improbable is it seems (given that most of my life is spent not driving) the issue that causes me the greatest amount of inconvenience, stress, and anxiety is: car seat drama.

You see, although we don’t own a car, there are occasions (about once a month or every other month) when we need to use one. In the old days, this was a cinch: 1. Reserve car 2. Walk to car 3. Drive car 4. Return car.

These days? Not so much. The new routine: 1) Reserve car* 2. Schlep Chicklet, Chicklet’s car seat, and Chicklet’s stuff to car 3. Install car seat in car while ensuring that Chicklet doesn’t push any of the car’s buttons or make a beeline for the busy parking lot where the car is parked 4. Strap Chicklet into car seat 5. Drive car 6. Return car 7. Remove Chicklet and unstrap seat 8. Schlep Chicklet, seat, and stuff back home.

If Nerd is around for the car trip, the process is somewhat easier, since one of us can go get the car (sans Chicklet) and bring it back to our place to install the seat. Still, it wastes precious time that we’re paying for.

And I’m not finished.

On my father’s 70th birthday, the family met at a restaurant on Alki Beach to celebrate. After dinner, everyone wanted to head to my dad’s place–not far from the restaurant, but too far to walk–for dessert. Because the bus service in that part of town is abysmal, there’s no service from Alki to my dad’s place (at Seacrest) in the evening. Pre-child, this would not have been an issue. Nerd and I would have ridden to my dad’s with some family member or other, and, after dinner, walked up the hill to catch the 55 or hitched a ride downtown with my brother, who would have been heading that way anyway. But, since we had Chicklet with us, and since we didn’t happen to bring her 15-pound car seat along on our outing, we missed the after-party.

The next Saulter family gathering was for Father’s Day bowling at West Seattle Bowl. This time, we anticipated a post-bowling trip to Pegasus and so dragged Chicklet’s enormous seat along with us on the two-bus trip to the bowling alley. With two parents and two fairly empty Sunday-afternoon buses, we managed it. Certainly, though, it’s not a reasonable regular practice.

And then there was the time back in November of 2008, when we attended an election party at our friends’ place in Kirkland. On the way home (per usual, we had to leave earlier than everyone else to catch the last bus), we miscalculated the location of the bus stop and missed the route we were supposed to take back to Seattle. Pre-Chicklet, we would have called a cab. That night, we were forced to take a convoluted series of buses and spend a lot of time waiting outside in the dark. Did I mention that it was cold, and we had a baby with us?

I’ll spare you all of my other examples, since I think you get the picture.

Yes, I do know about the car seat/stroller combo (wish we’d done our homework before we bought the one we have), but that only really solves the Zipcar problem. What I need someone to invent (and pronto!) is a collapsible, portable car seat that a bus parent can carry in her bus chick bag–a sort of “car seat for emergencies.” Who’s got me?


* * If the only car within reasonable walking distance of our home is reserved, I skip the trip. Trying to time a rental around a bus schedule and then drag the seat and kid on the bus (and still walk at least a couple of blocks) is just more trouble than it’s worth.

Link opening, part II (or, Less talk, more pictures)

Disclaimer: As y’all already know, I’m no photographer, so I apologize in advance for any visual offense I might cause. Any halfway decent photos in this post were probably taken by Bus Nerd. On to the trains:

On Friday afternoon, I took a preview ride from Westlake Station to Tukwila Station and back. It was a good overview of the entire line.

Stadium Station
Stadium Station
SoDo art
SoDo art
View of the city
View on the climb to Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill Station
Beacon Hill Station
View of Franklin HS
View of Franklin from Mount Baker Station
Train vs. bus
Racing the 194
Train vs. bus, part II
Gaining ground
Tukwila Station
End of the line

On Friday evening, Bus Nerd and I attended Tuxes and Trains, a black tie train celebration/fundraiser for Transportation Choices Coalition in Union Station’s Great Hall. We had a blast. Did I mention that Union Station is air conditioned?

Bus Nerd all gussied up
My handsome date
Commemorative root beer
A commemorative root beer from the event

On Saturday, Link’s official opening day, Nerd, Chicklet, and I rode the rails as a family.

Chick and Chicklet on the train
Chick and Chicklet on the train
Othello Station
First Stop: Othello Station
Chicklet waiting
Chicklet, digging the toddler-safe seats
Othello Street Fair
Othello Street Fair

Transportation Choices had a booth at the fair, and they were giving away “day one” stickers and other fun swag. They also had cool “travel light” t-shirts for sale. I bought one and then left it at the booth, so I don’t have a photo.

Taco bus
Taco “truck” (ahem) at Othello Street Fair
Satisfied customers
Two satisfied customers

Next: Back north to Columbia City

Chicklet in stickers
A sticker lover’s dream
Link cookies
Link cookies (!) at Columbia City Bakery
Meal discount for rail riders
As they (OK, I) say: Ridership has its privileges

Link opening: a recap (or, Bus Chick rides the train)

I haven’t been posting moment-to-moment updates on the light rail opening–in part because STB has you more than covered in this area, and in part because my life has (yet again) been getting in the way of my blog. (More on that in a future post.) If I’m honest, I’ll also admit to some residual negative emotions related to the way the line was implemented in the Rainier Valley, which, though they have not prevented me from vocally advocating for light rail in Seattle–and for this particular line–have tempered my giddiness somewhat. I digress.

So far, I’ve ridden Link twice: once, on a Friday afternoon preview ride* from Westlake Station all the way to the end of the line in Tukwila, and once (actually, more than once) up and down the in-city part of the route on opening day. Folks, I was excited to ride the train–so excited that I sat through an hour and a half of self-congratulatory speeches just so I could participate in the preview ride Friday–but I could not possibly have anticipated how amazing it would feel to actually ride it. It was so ridiculously cool to zoom through my beloved city on a train (a train!) and imagine what it will be like when future lines are built. My daughter, who, at 20 months, has already decided that Seattle is not a train town (Bus Chick: “We’re going to ride the train today.” Chicklet: “In Vancouver!”), will have to be disabused of that notion.

The preview ride was nice. I was able to experience the line from beginning to end: the tunnels, the views, and all of the stations. (Pictures to come later this evening.) Riding on Saturday will go down as one of the highlights of my life. Zipping from one station to another–stopping to get a bite or play at a park or cool off at a library–without ever once checking a schedule was absolutely liberating. If it hadn’t been for Chicklet, Nerd and I would have ridden all day.

The trains were cool (which reminds me: it’s about time to chat about buses and AC), comfortable (even standing is better on Link), and clean (which doesn’t mean much when a system is brand, spanking new, but still). A very nice voice** and LCD sign kept me apprised of where I was, so I could concentrate on managing Chicklet, calming down Bus Nerd (as you can imagine, he gets a bit excited about trains), and keeping my eyes peeled for an open seat.

Now that I’m finished gushing (see? my giddiness hasn’t been tempered that much), I’ll move on to the stuff that’s less than ideal:

• I’ve heard all the reasons why the section that runs through the Rainier Valley is surface, and I still don’t like it. Four lanes of traffic plus a train makes MLK way too wide, and crossing that street is nothing short of an ordeal. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it across before the light changes. If not, you’ll be stuck waiting again (sans barrier), right next to the tracks. If the goal of all the street improvements that accompanied the track was to make Rainier Valley’s neighborhoods walkable, it hasn’t been achieved.
• The Columbia City stop is a really long walk from the main business district.
• There is no stop at Southcenter.*** This would make the line about a bazillion times more useful, for folks who need to get to jobs and for car-free types like me who need to get to a mall from time to time. I don’t know the details, but my understanding is that this was blocked by the City of Tukwila. I cannot imagine why.
• I’m still not sure about how the payment stuff works. I get that I can use an Orca e-purse or pass. What I don’t understand is how much I’ll pay if I transfer from Metro to Link or vice versa.

Final verdict: Except for the occasional airport run or sporting event, I won’t be using light rail much. It doesn’t come to my neighborhood, and when I go to Columbia City or Rainier Beach, it’s a lot easier for me to catch the 48 right in front of my house than it is for me to go downtown and get on a train. This is unfortunate, since my little two-day taste has me dreaming of daily rides.

What’s more important than my direct benefit, though, is Link’s long-term impact on our region, which I truly believe will be phenomenal. I am so grateful that we’re finally on our way.


*The preview ride was for VIPs. I was included as a member of the press. (Thankfully, ST defines the term quite loosely.)
**I was a little jarred, though, when I heard the exit instructions. The voice says, “Exit to my left/right.” Is the idea for us to believe that the train is talking to us?
***Yes, I am aware that this issue (and the one about surface rail in the Valley) has been covered ad nauseam, but hey. The way I see it, there’s a reason for this.

And for my Detroit transit types…

The Rosa Parks Transit Center opens Tuesday!

From The Detroit Free Press:

Inside, two levels open to the public offer restrooms, a cashier station for bus fares, and information and security booths. … Users will find seating inside as well as four areas the city said will house retail outlets, possibly restaurant, café or newsstand-type stores [.
Outside, under the whimsical, glass-coated fiber canopies, riders may sit on benches and check electronic signs announcing arrival times for buses based on real-time GPS coordinates.


“There aren’t a lot of facilities like this, particularly for buses,” Advani said during a media tour of the center this morning. … “The aim, he said, was an iconic facility that provides “a comfortable, respectful and safe environment” for transit users.

Leave aside for a moment my obsession with Mrs. Parks. The restrooms alone make this transit center worth visiting. (Hey, I’m getting tired of memorizing coffee-shop access codes.) Those of you who make it to the big party (my Gail–ahem!): I’m counting on you to report back.

Upcoming events for transit types

Link light rail opening day

What: Free train rides to celebrate the opening of light rail in Seattle (!!!)
When: July 18, 2009 (Rides start at 10 AM)
Where: All stations (Ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:20 at Mount Baker Station)
How much? Free!

Seattle Summer Streets (formerly known as Carfree Sundays) July events

What: Car-free, locally organized street festivals
“Walk. Bike. Shop. Play. Breathe. City streets are being opened for people to have fun, celebrate the spirit and personality of their community and support local businesses.”

Event: U-District Chamber’s Summer Streets Party
Date: Saturday, July 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: University Way Northeast between Northeast 50th and Northeast 45th streets.

Event: Pike Place Market’s Fresh Fruit Festival and Summer Streets Party
Date: Sunday, July 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Pike Street/First Avenue to Virginia

How much? Free!

Seattle Century bike ride*

What: A 100- (or, if you choose, 50-) mile scenic bike ride through our lovely Puget Sound region.
“The fully supported and catered routes offer beautiful views of the communities surrounding Seattle, tasty food along the way, rest stops every 15 miles and a finish line gourmet dinner with free beer and live music in the gardens at Magnuson Park.”
Yes, please.
Where: Check map for start locations.
How much? Registration costs vary ($60-$80 for adults), but proceeds benefit Seattle Bike Works.

*OK, so this isn’t technically for transit types, but since lots of bus riders are bike/bus types, I figured I’d include it. Plus, it’s the kind of ride that even a non-cycling, terrified-of-riding-in-traffic walk/bus type like yours truly could probably manage. (Of course, I’ll manage pretty much anything that involves delicious food, but hey.)