Monthly Archives: March 2010

March news of note

One Bus Away, the user-friendly version of MyBus, won “Best Use of Technology in the Government, Nonprofit, or Educational Sector” at the Washington Technology Institute Association awards earlier this month.

A fancy tech award is nice and all, but OBA also receives all kinds of love on the streets. If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone using it on a mobile device or hyping it up to a friend… Case in point: My friend (and fellow bus mom) Lily, who started using the app recently, gushed about it during our get-together a couple of weeks ago. “It’s changed my life!” she told me–and she meant it. Now if that ain’t a ringing endorsement…

• And speaking of gushing… Most of you know that I’m a big fan of Undriving Ballard and their fun undriver licensing program. If UB hasn’t made it to your neighborhood yet (or if you missed them when they did) I have some good news: You can now apply for an undriver license online. Love.

Another successful bus engagement went down last week. Bus luh is alive and well, folks.

• If you’re interested in Detroit’s discussions about revamping its transportation infrastructure, you might enjoy this Free Press editorial. (via: Bus Nerd, of course)

And counting

Earlier this month, I celebrated my car-free anniversary. As of March 5th (or was it the 6th?), I’m officially seven years in.

It’s been an eventful seven years. I bought a home, got married, lost my beloved mother to cancer, and had two children. Navigating so many major life events without a car in a city that all but requires one has certainly had its challenges, but it has also integrated the bus into all of my significant recent memories*–and made it impossible for me to imagine my life without Metro. As I wrote in my Real Change column back in 2006, buses have associations for me.

Riding the Water Taxi reminds me of the days I spent with my mother during her last months of life. The first time I rode it to my parents’ Seacrest Park condo the spring after she died, I cried. Sometimes I still do.

The 545 will forever feel romantic to me, since it’s the route Nerd and I rode together in the early days of our courtship. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more forward to a commute–or for that matter, to anything.

The 4 and 27 are my baby buses–the 4 because I rode it to all of my obstetrician appointments–and home from the hospital with Chicklet; the 27 because I rode it to the hospital to deliver Chicklet and home from the hospital with Busling.

And there are many more. The Ballard buses (17, 18) take me to my brother, Jeremy (and also remind me of my rather unfortunate adventure as a ball-gown model); the 55 takes me to my Joelie and the place I still consider home; the 14 is all about TAC meetings, Top Pot (Summit side), and writing group get-togethers at my friend Marchel’s house (Mount Baker side); the 194: Paris, Detroit, and airport goodbyes with Bus Nerd; the 8: Mom again.

And the 36, though it’s not one of my regular routes, reminds me of why I ride: to be a part of my community, and to share my travels with the people I share the world with.

Bring on the next seven.

*The bus is also integrated into many of my not-so-recent memories, like this one and this one.

For better or worse, Link edition

Chicklet, Busling, and I took a recent Link excursion to the Beacon Hill Library. We went to attend an event, but I was mostly just looking for an excuse to get the BH stamp on my library passport (and yes, I’m still working on that).

I ride the train very infrequently, but every time I do, I wish I had the opportunity to do so more often. The reasons aren’t particularly unique, but I’m going to share them nonetheless.

– I don’t need a schedule. Trains are frequent and (unlike buses) don’t often experience delays. I love just showing up at the station knowing I won’t be waiting more than a few minutes.
– It’s easy to board with kids. Stroller or no, bus stairs are no fun with little ones.
– Trains are fast and cool. (I’m not the only one who thinks so. Chicklet is an absolute train fanatic. I need to introduce her to the STB guys.)

Pretty train

Of course, nothing’s perfect

Many months after my initial rides, I still think the payment process is confusing and puts too much burden on the rider. Infrequent riders (especially distracted or busy infrequent riders like me) aren’t going to remember that they have to swipe before and after they ride–especially when the card swiping machines aren’t anywhere near the train. We forgot to pre-swipe at Pioneer Square Station and missed the train schlepping back up the escalator to do so. We also forgot to post-swipe on our way out of Beacon Hill Station and made the machine mad by double-swiping upon our return. I’m still not exactly sure how much I was charged.

If you’re going to penalize folks for not paying, the process should be idiot proof.

Ah, well. I suppose I’ll get the hang of it with a little more practice. Here’s hoping I won’t have to wait long for another opportunity.

Thanks (again) for the ride!

Tomorrow is Bus Driver Appreciation Day. (Two holidays in one week!) Since last year, I’ve learned that Metro drivers are not allowed to accept gifts, but (as far as I know) there’s no rule against letting your favorite drivers know their hard work matters to you.

So thanks, Busfather, Smooth Jazz, DJ, and all the others, for getting me there–and for keeping me entertained on the ride.

More on kids and transportation

• A Portland dad discusses the need for family friendly transit (via: Streetsblog).

• Dorea of Carfree with Kids shares her tips for raising good walkers.

It occurs to me, after reading the Portland dad’s arguments and all of the comments on my last post, that is might be worth it for PT-loving parents to collaborate a bit. I’m thinking that–in addition to offering support and sharing information–we could probably come up with a list of best practices to help transit agencies better meet the needs of families.*

If you’re interested in working on a project like this, hit me up, and we’ll, as my friend Aileen says, “tawk.”

*Since most US agencies are in dire financial straits at this point, we probably can’t expect them to take suggestions that cost a lot of money, but I don’t think all (or even most) of the recommendations would have to be costly. Besides, the agencies won’t always be broke (I hope!), so it can’t hurt to put the expensive ideas out there.

Busing with two babies (or, “I’ll just catch the next one.”)

I do my best to keep this blog positive, in part because there are enough people in the world complaining about PT (really, there are enough people in the world complaining, period), but mostly because I really do enjoy my life on the bus. There are certainly challenges, but every choice comes with challenges, and I’ll take mine over all of the drawbacks of driving. I digress.

Folks, in addition to keeping it positive, I like to keep it real, and I have to say, I’m feeling pretty challenged right now. The transition from bus parent of one to bus parent of two has been harder than any I have made so far, including the transition from car-owning bus enthusiast to car-free full-time rider–and even from happily childless bus chick to bus mom. Of course, not all of the pain I am feeling right now is about travel; adjusting to parenting two has been tough for me, even (perhaps especially) when we’re in the house all day. Still, I’d be lying if I said that the bus wasn’t contributing to my angst. Peep it:

The first time I rode the bus with both babies, it was for a family outing: Nerd, Chicklet, week-old Busling, and me. Our Goddaughter, Layla, was turning one, and (thanks to the enormous families of both of her parents), her party was held at a community center in the south end. The three-bus trip (48 + 7 + 39) was less than ideal but was doable with two adults, and, despite the fact that Chicklet was a bit antsy during transfers, we managed it pretty well.

A family outing on the 14
Waiting for the 14 for Lunar New Year fun in the ID (smiling because Bus Nerd is along for this ride)

The trip home was more of a challenge, since the 39 only runs once per hour on Sunday evenings. Saying our goodbyes and getting Chicklet appropriately bundled took longer than we expected, and we barely missed the bus we had planned to catch. Had we been traveling without children, this would have been a minor inconvenience, but since we were dealing with a toddler’s bedtime, a newborn’s feeding schedule, a post-partum mom’s fatigue, and a party that ended before the next bus was scheduled to arrive, it was a major inconvenience. We ended up taking a cab home, sans car seats. I worried for the entire (thankfully short) ride.

The second time I rode the bus with both babies, it was to meet my friend Kelley and her daughter at a park in Madrona. On that day, I was parenting solo, and, thanks to a morning errand in the neighborhood, arrived at the 48 stop mere seconds before the bus did. I quickly removed Chicklet from her stroller, but when I tried to fold it down, it wouldn’t budge; a stack of papers I had tossed into the storage basket earlier that morning was in the way.

While I squatted on the sidewalk, trying to un-jam the stroller–with one hand on the baby (to prevent him from tipping out of the sling-like carrier he’s riding in until he gets big enough for the real deal) and one hand on Chicklet (to prevent her from running into the busy street we were waiting near)–the bus pulled up, and folks started boarding. When they finished, I was still struggling.

The driver peered out the door and asked politely, “Are y’all coming?” but I was so embarrassed and discombobulated, I shook my head.

“I’ll just catch the next one,” I said, and then watched as he closed the doors and drove away.

The three of us did, in fact, wait the 15+ minutes for the next bus, and when it arrived, I was prepared: Busling strapped to my chest, bus chick bag on my left shoulder, Chicklet on my left hip, Orca card in my left hand (ready to swipe), stroller folded up and ready to be carried on board with my free right hand. I managed to get everyone–and everything–on and off without incident, but that ride only took us part of the way there. (We still had a short 2 ride, which I skipped in favor of a medium-distance walk, to go.) By the time we finally made it to the park, I was stressed and tired, and we were late to meet our friends.

Since that enjoyable trip, we’ve gone on several outings as a threesome, with (thankfully) much less drama. For one thing, I don’t always bring the stroller for Chicklet; she’s capable of walking several blocks on her own. Whether or not I bring it depends on how far we have to walk–and whether I’ll need to contain her–when we get where we’re going. For another, I usually don’t arrive at stops right when the bus does. When I get there a couple of minutes early, I don’t have to rush to get ready to board and am therefore better prepared to deal with any equipment malfunctions that may arise.

Of course, getting anywhere on time (let alone a couple of minutes early) with a newborn and a two-year old is a feat in itself. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful that I can walk to many of my regular destinations. When it’s not raining, we walk to church, to the library (it’s across the street!), to the park, to the doctor’s office, to restaurants and coffee shops, to grocery and drug stores, to community centers, and to friends’ houses. On occasion, we even walk downtown.

And so, here’s hoping I’ll get to reap at least one reward of the bus (or not) parenting lifestyle: A speedy return to my pre-Busling form.

Speaking of community…

One of my very favorite organizations, Transportation Choices Coalition, held a bake sale at Aurora Transit Center this morning (yes, folks, it has come to that) to draw attention to the funding crises that our state’s transit agencies are facing.

(via: STB)

Wish I could have been there. In addition to supporting more transit options in the region, I also fully support increased dessert options in my household. We’re down to a single Girl Scout cookie, and Chicklet’s already got dibs.