Monthly Archives: December 2009

Bus reading, part–OK, I’ve lost count

For some unknown reason, I regularly receive a monthly e-mail newsletter from King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson. (This is only unusual because I don’t live in his district and don’t remember signing up for it. Call me a civics nerd, but I do actually enjoy reading it.)

Councilmember Ferguson is a proud bus rider and regularly mentions Metro in his communiqués. His latest bus-related broadcast: The inaugural entry of Bob’s Bus Books.

This month, I am starting a new section in my eNews to share what I have been reading on my bus commutes. A few of the books I have enjoyed in the past few months are:

• The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig – Doig is a Shoreline resident and was nominated for the National Book Award for This House of Sky.
• The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – I stole this one from my wife’s reading stack.
Winter Wheat* and The Curlew’s Cry by Mildred Walker – Walker’s works focus on Western themes. These two novels take place in Montana and were no doubt inspired by her time there.

I am currently reading Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, which many consider to be the best novel set in Oregon.

Looks like Mr. Ferguson is partial to novels written by and about the West. Not that I can talk; I just finished reading (in honor of the anniversary of the boycott, and all) three Rosa Parks-related books–two by her, one about her–in a row. And since we’re on the subject…

My current bus read is Green Metropolis, by David Owen. I would have gotten to it sooner (it came out in September), but the library’s waiting list was about 50 deep. I dutifully waited my turn, and then, just days after my name finally came up, my sweet baby brother, Joel, bought me a copy for Christmas. Lucky for the next person in line.

I digress.

Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s blurb about the book:

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan — the most densely populated place in North America — rank first in public-transit use and last in per capita greenhouse-gas production… They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.

I’m only on chapter one, but I already love it, and not just because it completely validates my world view–and hates on Portland**, just a little bit. (OK, mostly because of those reasons.) I’m actually learning something about individual energy consumption in the US, and since Owen is a strong writer, his nonfiction goes down nice and easy. (That means that this novel-preferring bus chick won’t take three months to get through it.) Get thee to a library and check out Green Metropolis (or, at least, get on SPL’s website and add yourself to the wait list) immediately.

Next up for me, another Christmas gift: Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, The Lacuna.

And you? What’s on your bus reading list for 2010?

* I’ve actually read Winter Wheat (my mom lent it to me over a decade ago), but I don’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it.
**Folks, I have nothing but love for our Northwest neighbors to the south, but I do admit to being a wee bit jealous of all the love Portland gets from the rest of the planet. Sue me.

Heads up: Big bus changes in 2010

The highlights:

Another fare increase: Starting January 1st, a one-zone peak-hour trip will cost $2.25. (Note: Youth fares will not change.)
No more Puget Passes: Need a bus pass? Get an Orca card. They’re free until January 31st, and then they’ll cost $5. (Note: All passes purchased in 2009–before the December 15th deadline–will be valid until they expire, and all employer-provided passes will be accepted until the employer makes the transition.)
No more paper transfers between systems: You’ll still be able to use paper transfers within Metro’s system, but only Orca-based electronic transfers will be valid on Link and buses operated by other transit agencies.

You can find all the details in this Metro press release.

Also note: Contrary to the Council’s somewhat misleading press release, February shakeup will include some service loss. Though (thanks to added service in certain corridors) there will be no net loss of service hours, some trips (certainly far, far fewer than we feared) will be eliminated. As far as I know, there’s no way to find out which trips will be cut until the new schedules are published. I’ll post more useful information as soon as I have it.

Update, 1/2: STB posted a good summary earlier in the month.

Gift-wrapped buses

In case anyone else is confused about why we’re seeing wrapped buses again–despite the fact that the Council banned them three years ago and did not authorize partial wraps until a few weeks ago–I think I finally understand well enough to explain:

Starting in 2007, Metro was prohibited from selling bus ads that covered any part of the vehicle’s windows–not, specifically, bus wraps. At that point, Metro’s ad vendor, Titan, started trying to find advertisers who were willing to create wraps that did not cover bus windows. (This was not easy, since most ad templates do cover windows, and it’s expensive to create a custom template for one market–especially one with other transit agencies, like Sound Transit, with no such constraints.) At first, the only ad sold was to the zoo.

In the meantime (way back in July of 2007), Metro presented the Council with a “partial wrap” proposal, which allowed wraps as long as they left a 15″ portion of each window uncovered. This proposal was endorsed by both the KC Transit Advisory Committee and the Accessible Services Committee, but, thanks to some frustrating drama and politics, the Council didn’t get around to voting on it until last month. (Guess a zillion-dollar budget gap can be a powerful motivator.) During the long wait, Titan was apparently able to sell a few “clear-window” wraps, and those are the wraps we’re seeing now.

BECU wrap
Clear-window BECU wrap (I think this one’s kinda cool.)
HTC wrap
Another clear-window wrap, this one for HTC
HTC wrap
HTC wrap

I assume we’ll start seeing the recently approved partial wraps sometime in the next several months.

Whew! I think I got that right. Metro folks (and all-knowing transit geeks), please chime in with additions or corrections.

Christmas Eve, bus-fam style

8 to and from the Nutcracker (16)…

Waiting for the 8
Waiting for our ride
Heading to Seattle Center on the 8
Rollin’ to Seattle Center
Chicklet and Nerd walking to the Nutcracker
Walking from Queen Ann & Mercer to McCaw Hall

+ 48 to and from the candlelight service at Good Shepherd (96)…

Waiting for the 48
Waiting for our ride (again)

+ bus-free cooking and baking (while watching The Two Towers) with my riding partner for life (0)…

= 112, an absolutely perfect day

Transportation in the news

• There’s a new, nationwide portal for transit applications. MyBus and OneBusAway are already in there. (Source: Mission-Sustainable)

• Transit riders and privacy groups are raising concerns about the way Orca collects and stores users’ travel data. They’re chatting about it over at STB.

• Link’s Seatac station is up and running. I missed the big ribbon-cutting (hey, it was at 8-something on Saturday morning!), and I’m not headed out of town anytime soon, but I’ll probably ride down there for the heck of it in a day or two. Anyone already been?

And one more…

This was an actual gift to me from my friend Christina:

A magnet for bus chicks
Coolest refrigerator magnet ever
A magnet for bus chicks
As you can see, I kinda dig refrigerator magnets.

I have no idea where she got it (her husband gave it to Bus Nerd to give to me, so I haven’t seen her to ask), but I’ll find out and report back ASAP.

Update, 12/22: Per the comments, you can find these (and other cool, transit-related stuff) at

All she wants for [insert appropriate December holiday]…

A couple of times during the life of this blog, I’ve posted holiday shopping tips for bus chicks. (This is somewhat amusing, since I’m really, really bad at shopping, but hey.) It recently occurred to me, however, that I’ve never posted tips for holiday shopping for bus chicks–as in, suggestions for bus-chick-appropriate holiday gift purchases. Of course, there are always the practical options, like a sturdy, compact umbrella (with a strap and cover, of course) or a pair of cute, bus-friendly shoes (at least one young, bus-chick-loving gentleman has managed to get this right), but we’ve already covered those. And plus, they’re pretty predictable.

[I ain’t one to hawk products, but] If you’re looking for something with a little more flavor, here are some transit-related gift possibilities I’ve come across this season:

Bus jammies
Bus pajamas

OK, I confess: Despite their rather extreme price (that much for pajamas–really?), I actually purchased these. I needed some warm and roomy (read: tent-like) PJs to accommodate my enormous (and ever-expanding) belly. Too bad they don’t come in miniature sizes. Chicklet has decided they’re even cooler than her favorite dinosaur pair.

I also purchased these–to facilitate the continued expansion of said belly.

Subway tokens
A variation on the Hanukah “gold coin” theme: chocolate subway tokens

In case you’re short on stocking stuffers:

Commuter anagram puzzles
Puzzles for the ride

Train cards
Cool train-art playing cards

Of course, if the bus chick in your life is not big on “stuff” (as I’ve mentioned, we transit types tend to be into conserving–both money and the earth’s resources), you can’t go wrong with an Orca card–with a pass or full e-purse–or a membership to her friendly neighborhood transit advocacy organization.

Happy [ahem] shopping!