Monthly Archives: September 2010

Speaking of Microsoft…

Today is the fifth anniversary of a bus stop that happens to be extremely popular with employees of our friendly neighborhood software giant. (In fact, it’s used by more Microsoft employees than any other bus stop in our region.) It’s a 545 stop, of course (Bellevue & East Olive), and it exists because of the dogged persistence of Anirudh Sahni (my original Bus Hero). Here’s a chronicle of his multi-year campaign.

Whew! I plan to use it as motivation in my own efforts to make a difference.* I’m hoping you will, too.

*Currently, I’m obsessing about the intersection at 23rd & Yesler, which is particularly dangerous for pedestrians. An intersection that includes a library (with a popular story time), a nonprofit, senior housing, and three bus stops should prioritize pedestrian safety. I’ve been pestering the city a bit, but I really could take some lessons in persistence, organization, and providing supporting data (!!!) from Anirudh.

Bing adds transit trip planning

Bing Maps now offers transit directions. (‘Bout time!) From the Bing Community blog:

Commuters rejoice! Today Bing Maps added transit routing to its directions options. So, for those of you who like to take the bus, subway, or local rail you now can turn to Bing Maps. This is a very important feature for us as public transit grows in popularity and coverage. There are more than 10.7 billion public transit passenger trips per year in the US alone.

In this initial release (i.e. more to come) of Bing Maps transit directions, Bing Maps will cover 11 cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, and Vancouver.

So far, I like. The quick and dirty:

• The itineraries–at least the itineraries I tested–are accurate. (This is not a given, by the way.

• The UI is simple and clear, with some cool features, such as:

• It shows how many minutes you have to make a connection. (Sure, it’s possible to do the math in your head, but it’s nice to have the information called out.)

• It lists the stops before and after your destination stop. This is huge when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar neighborhood or city. (Of course, this feature won’t be necessary when we finally get automated stop announcements, but hey.)

• It lets you send an itinerary to an e-mail address or moblie device. (!!!)

Props to the folks at Microsoft for finally tapping the transit-geek market. (Unlike drivers, we can legally play with our Internet-enabled devices while we travel.)

I’ll report back after I use it in the real world.

Speaking of old-school transit ads…

Back in the day, NYC subway ads were used to select beauty queens. Seriously.

Miss Subways 1940Miss Subways 1940

The Miss Subways pageant was a monthly contest run by the New York Subways Advertising Agency between 1941 and 1976. To compete for this coveted title, entrants had to be female, between the ages of 14 (!) and 30, New York City residents, and–most importantly–subway riders. Though the finalists were selected by a modeling agency, the winners were chosen by the contestants’ fellow riders–through a call-in voting system. The photo and bio of each month’s winner were displayed in the ad space of every car on three major lines.

Feminist issues aside, the fact that these beautiful, instant celebrities–recognized by more New Yorkers than the most successful of Broadway actresses– were of, by, and for the community of everyday riders* made the subway seem glamorous and full of potential. (The first Miss Subways was Mona Freeman, who went on star in several popular teen films. ) The ads for the contest encouraged riders to think this way: Look around this car! Next month’s selection may be riding with you! [Indeed.]

The contest was discontinued in 1977 and briefly revived in 2004. Caroline Sanchez-Bernat was crowned Ms. Subways to help commemorate the New York Subway’s 100th anniversary. In the modern version of the contest, the application included short essay questions. Here’s part of Ms. Sanchez-Bernat’s response to, “What does the subway mean to you?”

…I can rely on it to get me safely to work in the morning and home at night. It’s also my favorite place to people watch.… The more I ride the subway the more I learn about what it is to be a New Yorker…

I couldn’t have said it better.

*The subway being one of the most democratic forms of transportation–and subway riders being a diverse and fair-minded lot, barriers that existed in mainstream pageants were more easily transgressed in this one. The first black Miss Subways won the title in 1946, 35 years before the first black Miss America. In 1949, the first Asian woman became Miss Subways, and several other women of color won the title over the years.