Monthly Archives: February 2010

What I learned on the 27

This is not a totem pole.

Douglass Truth Soul Pole
The Douglass-Truth “Soul Pole”

I never really looked at this library landmark (despite the kajillion times I have walked and ridden past it) until a late-evening bus conversation with a history-loving fellow native of the 2-0-sickness. After I explained the origins of Chicklet’s name, he decided we were kindred spirits and so proceeded to school me about–among other things–the history and meaning of this particular work of art.

Soul Pole dedication
“The First 400 Years”

I am grateful that he took the time to talk to me. I am also, as ever, grateful for the bus–and for the many opportunities it provides for me to form deeper connections to my community.

Happy last day of Black History Month, ya’ll.

Buses are for everyone, part II

A self-described LA “snob,” recently lost her job and found herself unable to afford her car lease. Instead of trading down for something cheaper, she decided–for the first time in her life–to give Metro a try. The result? She’s not 100% sold on car-freedom (not surprising in sprawling, car-dependent SoCal), but she’s definitely diggin’ the ride. From the LA Times (via: Erin):

“I felt like I was too good for the bus,” said [Jacquelyn] Carr, recalling her virgin voyage last October with a mixture of embarrassment and marvel. “I think there’s a social understanding and a construction around that if you take the bus, you take it because you don’t have money. There’s a social standard. Obviously I had bought into that.”


Despite [the drawbacks], Carr says it feels good to take the bus. She’s saving money that would have been going to her car: about $450 a month on gas, insurance and car payments, not to mention oil changes and tuneups. She also feels she’s helping the environment — and the bus gives her a front-row seat in a city she missed when she was driving and focused on traffic.

“This feels different, this looks different,” said Carr, who has a quick grin, long, brown hair and a penchant for bright-colored clothes and big sunglasses. “When you drive through the streets of L.A., you’re not looking around, talking to people.”

I find it fascinating how many people–no matter their initial motivation for trying it–get hooked on the bus for essentially the same reasons. “Adventure” is a recurring theme, even (actually, especially) among people who were initially intimidated by PT. (You can read about Jacquelyn’s bus adventures on her blog, Snob on a Bus.)

And, of course, there’s nothing like the hope of finding bus luh to add a little shine to the ride.

But despite the aches and inconveniences, Carr still believes in her bus dreams — meeting new people and perhaps even finding that special someone.

She might be on her way.

“My bag matches your jacket,” a young man named Peter told her on the 720.

They talked about how bad the television station is on the bus and where they each came from and went to school. At one point, they both got out of their seats for other people.

Then came Carr’s stop.

“Do you ride the bus often?” Peter asked.

“Every day,” Carr said, before walking away. “Every day, my friend.”


Catching up (a little)

While I’ve been focused on learning to fold an umbrella stroller with a baby on my chest, a bag on my shoulder, and a two-year old in my grasp (more on that in a future post), the transit world has continued to turn–sometimes around unpleasant corners.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the video of the tunnel beating, but I’ve been paying attention to the discussion. It feels very close to home and very threatening, both because the victim turned out to be the cousin of a family friend, and because it happened on the heels of the assault I recently witnessed on the 4. I’ve never felt that the tunnel was particularly safe,* but that was mostly because of the stairwells and other areas where it would be easy to corner someone. I certainly didn’t think that a major assault could happen on the platform, in front of several witnesses.** Then again, that’s what I said last month.

On a happier note, Clarence from Streetfilms paid a visit to our fair city earlier this month. He came to check out Link and has posted some cool videos from his trip (including one of him biking with Mayor MCGinn) on the Streetfilms site.

More catching up to come.

UPDATE, 3/4: The Link video’s up.

* For me, stops and stations have always felt much less safe than buses–for a variety of reasons.

In this case, they were witnesses who were paid to prevent such an assault from happening–or so we thought. Now, of course, there’s an outcry about the quality of tunnel security and transit security in general. (We’ll see what happens with the new contractor.) Lord knows I want buses to be safe (and how!) but as far as I know, no one’s offering up additional sources of funding.

Watch this!

On Monday, 2/8, PBS will debut a cool documentary.

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City.

[The film] examines how Detroit–battered by the fallout of the automotive industry, and a bleak example of the social/economic failures that occur from having a transportation system that relies so heavily on private automobiles as the primary mode of mobility–may actually lead the way in transforming how the country gets around using public transportation that runs on clean energy.

It airs in Seattle at 10 PM. Check out this clip.

I had the pleasure of watching a preview copy of the film a few weeks ago, and I highly recommend it–both for people who are interested in the future of Detroit and for people who are interested in the future of transportation in this country. I’m interested in both and will definitely be watching (again) on Monday night.

P.S. – Detroit peeps: I heard a rumor that Transportation Riders United is planning to host a Blueprint America viewing party on opening night. Check their website for info.