Monthly Archives: August 2010

The art of public transportation

The latest evidence that art and public transportation are inherently complementary (previous examples can be found here, here, here, and here): MoMA’s London Underground poster exhibit. If you won’t be in NYC between now and mid-January, check out Slate’s review and slide show (via: Bus Nerd).

This one’s my favorite.

Zero (Hans Schleger), Thanks to the Underground, 1935. Lithograph Printer: The Baynard Press, London. Gift of G.E. Kidder Smith, 1943
A bus chick with places to go

Transportation safety, part VI (take 2)

The Sightline Institute is still plugging away on its informative Sustainababy series. (OK, so I’m not in love with the name, either, but they’re sure covering issues worth reading about.) Installment 25 is by Jennifer Langston, a Sightline employee and mom who tried transit with her toddler for the first time this summer.

Like many parents, Jennifer had been avoiding PT, in part because of the perceived danger of taking her daughter on a vehicle that doesn’t have child safety seats. But then she and her daughter had a great time riding the Seattle Streetcar for a preschool field trip.

“Bus” was one of her first words. [ahem] She startles strangers on the street by yelling it at the top of her lungs whenever she sees one. Yet she hasn’t actually ridden on one yet. And as I saw how fascinated she was by the streetcar–looking at its reflection in buildings, watching the floor joints move, trying to lick the windows, I found myself asking why I hadn’t done this before.

So, she decided to look into it. Here’s what she found:

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2007 found that, statistically, you’re far more likely to be injured or killed riding in a car than a bus. In fact, riding a bus is safer than walking, bicycling, driving a car, or hopping on a motorcycle. Whether the reason is that sheer size of a bus distributes the crash forces differently or that they travel more slowly, the raw numbers are pretty compelling.*

Here are the annualized injury rates (based on 100 million person trips in the US):
• Motorcycle: 10,336
• Bicycle: 1,461
• Car: 803
• Walking: 216
• Bus: 161

And here are the comparable fatality rates:
• Motorcycle: 537
• Bicycle: 21
• Walking: 14*
• Car: 9***
• Bus: 0.4

Thanks for the informative post, Jennifer, and for trusting transit with your precious cargo. See you guys on the bus!

*I assume they don’t have stats for trains because they aren’t really part of “traffic,” but I’d still like to know what they are.

**The walking and cycling stats aren’t especially encouraging. As the study points out, “…most bus occupants are also pedestrians during some portion of their journeys (e.g., during the trip to and from the bus stop)…Measures to promote pedestrian safety should also consider the routes that provide access to public transportation.”

***So, if 40,000 people die in cars every year, and there are nine deaths per 100 million person trips, that means we’re taking a lot of car trips.

More help finding a bus-chick-friendly neighborhood

The folks at Walk Score have stepped up their game. Earlier this week, they released Transit Score (via: TCC’s tweeters), a similar tool that assesses a particular location’s access to transit. From what I can tell so far, Seattle’s transit scores are lower, across the board, than its walk scores. Or maybe I’m just saying that to make myself feel better; my walkable, bus-full neighborhood only scored in the 60s*. Sure, the service could be more frequent, but I ain’t complainin’–at least not right now. I’ll be happy if all of my routes stay off the chopping block.

Speaking of rating walkability and transit access…

I finally had occasion to use Estately. Yes, that’s right folks: We’re moving this weekend–five blocks from where we live now. (Too bad we don’t know enough bike nerds to help us do a Portland-style bike move.) But more on all that later. Besides spending lots of time packing, we’ll be in Internet limbo for a few days and focusing our attention on getting Chicklet and Busling settled in their new home. Posts will be infrequent** for the remainder of the month.

*According to, a score in the 60’s = “good transit.”
**That is, less frequent than usual.

Bus Dad: Portland lover, “transportation expert”

My dad‘s family has been in Seattle since the early 30’s. My grandparents originally settled in a home mere blocks from where I live now. Dad was born at Harborview, grew up in Seattle and its environs, and raised his family here. And yet, I get most of my (considerable) Seattle love from my mother, a Northwesterner by marriage.

Truth be told, my dad is a bit of a Seattle hater.

To be fair, his hateration is less about the place, which he reveres, and more about the culture. Let him tell it, it’s lack of leadership and foresight that has led us to the current sprawling, transit-deprived, farmland-encroaching, treeless mess we’re in. There is also some complaining about the lack of a “scene.”* Tough words, coming from a guy over 70. I digress.

Every time my dad visits Portland (which is a lot, since one of his closest friends lives there), I have to hear about what a great time he had, and which jazz clubs he visited, and how much better Portland is than Seattle and blah, blah, blah. (In case you missed it, I’m a bit sensitive about such comparisons.) He called me last week, after his most recent visit, to rave about the street fair his friend took him to.

“Do you know they have a street fair once a month down there?”

“But Dad, we have those, too. Remember? Seattle Summer Streets?”

“Yeah, but all they do at those is…ride bikes and stuff.”**

It’s usually a good idea to attend an event before making those kinds of judgments, but hey. Who am I to disrespect an elder? He continued.

“And you want to talk about public transit…”

I braced myself for the long list of Pdx’s PT virtues, but was instead treated to the tale of how he’d made it all the way from his front door to Portland without setting foot in a car: Short walk to Seacrest Water Taxi dock>Water Taxi to Pier 50>Longer walk to King Street Station>Amtrak to Portland’s Union Station.

The car-free adventure ended there. Dad opted to have his friend, who lives right in the city, pick him up. The streetcar apparently doesn’t run close enough to his friend’s house, and he wasn’t up for dealing with the less discoverable and predictable bus. Go figure.

I was impressed with my dad’s adventure*** despite its anticlimactic ending, and I told him as much. I even offered to come up with a catchy nickname for him, like “Train Dad” or “PT Traveler,” but he’s not so into nicknames.”Just call me the transportation expert,'” he said. And so I will.

*Oh, and he does tend to hate on Seattle sports teams, which used to make me mad, back before Clay Bennet and David Stern stole my Sonics. These days, I’m numb. But that’s a discussion for another venue.
**I think he appreciated the commerce at the Pdx version. He got very exicted about the booth that sold old records for $1.
***I should note that my dad has had many more officially adventurous adventures (hoo boy–has he ever!) than taking the train to Portland, but hey. He could have just hopped in his car and headed down I-5. I think it’s cool that he didn’t.

A new bus hero

Metro's SupermanCongratulations to Marvin White (aka “Superman”), Metro’s 2009* Operator of the Year. I missed the big surprise ceremony (again), and that’s unfortunate; I would have liked to have had an opportunity to meet him.

Here’s what the folks at Metro had to say about the 31-year veteran, who currently drives the 271:

Bus riders on many Eastside routes think White is the Superman of Metro drivers. They describe him as kind, courteous, skilled, and gifted with an ability to stay on schedule “…despite I-405 traffic.”


“Marvin is one of those operators who knows many of his passengers by name, even though he picks a new route to drive three times a year,” said Metro’s Manager of Operations Jim O’Rourke. “When he goes on vacation, his passengers actually send us emails to tell us they miss him.”


White does manage to sneak in a little free time away from his driving duties. He’s an avid bicyclist and an accomplished musician. He’s played in several Metro-employee bands during his years with the agency.

But he can’t stay away for long – his customers won’t stand for it.

Here’s a sampling of comments from Metro passengers about White:

• “He always has something good to say to everybody, and he greets at least one-third of the passengers on his bus by name every time they get on or off.”
• “When he is not driving the route, the passengers just sit and avoid eye contact. As long as Marvin is at the wheel, everyone is jovial and filled with camaraderie.”
• “If Metro could clone Marvin White, you would double your bus riders in a hurry!”

A multi-modal type who cares about people and sparks bus-wide discussions? Time for a trip on the 271!

*Yes, I know it’s the middle of 2010, but it’s how Metro does it:

Since 1978, the drivers themselves have selected the best of their peers to hold the title of Metro Transit’s Operator of the Year. In order to receive the award, a driver must be chosen as Operator of the Month from one of the seven transit bases. At the end of the year, the Operator of the Year is selected by a vote of all fellow Operators of the Month. The annual ceremony is usually held the following summer.

Upcoming events for transit types

The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on Our Lives

What: An SDOT-sponsored talk by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez, authors of the recently released Carjacked. Here’s a synopsis of the book:

Carjacked is an in-depth look at our obsession with cars. While the automobile’s contribution to global warming and the effects of volatile gas prices is widely known, the problems we face every day because of our cars are much more widespread and yet much less known — from the surprising $14,000 that the average family pays each year for the vehicles it owns, to the increase in rates of obesity and asthma to which cars contribute, to the 40,000 deaths and 2.5 million crash injuries each and every year.

Carjacked details the complex impact of the automobile on modern society and shows us how to develop a healthier, cheaper, and greener relationship with cars.

When: Friday, August 6th, 3 PM – 4:30 PM
Where: Bertha Knight Landes Room, City Hall: 600 5th Avenue
How much: Free!

I’m embarrassed to admit (especially given the reviews) that I’ve had this book on my nightstand for several months, and I’ve only managed to read the first few pages. (I received a publicity copy shortly after Busling was born, and it got lost in the new-baby shuffle.) It is my intention to read at least a few chapters before attending the talk. I’ll share my thoughts here after I finish it.


Off the Chainring Tour, Seattle Edition
What: A traveling bikestravaganza! Join Elly Blue and Joe Biel for an “evening of bike talk, bike zines, and short movies about transportation activism! We’ll share ideas and inspiration about bike stuff in Portland, in your town, and in other places. Our focus is on bikes but also the big picture: buses, trains, walking, freeways, cars, housing, affordability, what works and what doesn’t.”

When: Saturday, August 14th, 7 PM – 9 PM
Where: Ada’s Technical Books: 713 Broadway East
How much: $3 – $10, based on ability to pay

More good stuff from the alt transpo capital of the universe. If Nerd and I can sucker my dad and/or one of my brothers into babysitting, we’re there.


UPDATE, 8/4: Metro Employee Historic Vehicle Association (MEHVA) Snoqualmie tour
What: “A leisurely 4-hour scenic trip [on an old-school bus!] to the historic and charming small town of Snoqualmie where you can ride the train from the restored depot built in 1890, visit the scenic spectacular Snoqualmie Falls or have a picnic lunch.”
When: Sunday, August 15th, 11 AM
Where: Tour departs from 2nd Ave S. & S. Main
How much: $5 (Free for kids 5 and under)

We’ve got a lot going on in the next couple of weeks (more on that later), but I’d really like to make it to this. A train ride and the falls? Chicklet would be beside herself.


August Regional Transit Task Force meetings

What: The RTTF is a group of citizens and elected officials appointed by the County Executive and charged with “identify[ing] short-term and long-term objectives for transit service investment. [The task force] will formulate a service implementation policy based on those objectives” by September 2010.”

In other words, Metro is facing huge cuts, and the County is looking for input about the most fair, least disruptive way to make those cuts. They’re also looking for help developing strong implementation policies for future (fingers crossed) service additions.

When: Thursday, August 5th & Thursday, August 19th, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Mercer Island Community Center: 8236 SE 24th Street, Mercer Island (You can take the 550.)
How much: Free (unless you count your tax dollars)

I didn’t mention this task force when it was formed earlier this year, mostly because I’m a member (as one of three rider representatives), and I try to keep my community involvement separate from this blog. In this case I’m making an exception, because the recommendations of the group (if they’re adopted by the council) are going to affect bus riders in every corner of the county.

The task force meets twice a month (schedule here), and there is time for public comment at the end of every meeting. If you can’t attend, you can find meeting materials and notes on the RTTF website.

Rainier Valley Summer Streets
What: Rainier Valley’s version of the city’s Summer Streets series.

Come out and watch the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade then stay and play in the streets afterwards. The parade begins at 11 a.m. and lasts about an hour. After that, the streets open up for people to enjoy. Dine at local restaurants, make art, find out about urban gardening and learn how to fix your bike. Seattle Children’s is sponsoring a kid’s obstacle course and there will be skateboard demos with free helmet give-aways. There will also be cultural activities like learning how to write calligraphy and making star lanterns.

When: Saturday, August 21st, 11 AM – 3 PM
Where: Rainier Ave South, between South Brandon and South Alaska
How much: Free!

So going to this. Again.