Monthly Archives: December 2010

2010: the bus year in review

Best ride of 2010: Easy: first ride with my sweet boy. (It didn’t hurt that it was on the 27.) More on the joys of busing with Busling in a few weeks, on his birthday.

Worst ride of 2010: Also easy: that terrible, terrible, morning-after-MLK-Day 4 ride. That one just might qualify as the worst bus ride of my life.

Driver of the year (really, every year): Smooth Jazz, of course.

Route of the year: ST550. Thanks to my role on the Regional Transit Task Force, I rode the 550 more times between March and October of this year than I did in all of my previous years buschickdom. I give the “7 of the Eastside” props for speed and frequency–even if it is always way too crowded.

And speaking of…

Most inspiring transit-related experience: My participation in the Regional Transit Task Force. It was amazing to see such a large group of people—with many different perspectives and priorities—come together to do what’s right for the citizens of this county. I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Most depressing transit-related experience: My participation in the Regional Transit Task Force. As we task force members were made painfully aware: Metro is going to experience deep cuts in the very near future. It was our job to find the fairest way to make the cuts, but “the best we could do under the circumstances” won’t mean much to the thousands of people who depend on transit to get around–or to the many who’d like to see this region provide some real alternatives to SOVs. Hard stuff.

On a happier note…

Best (personal) ride enhancements:
1) Bus info on the go. I resisted for many years, because I generally avoid buying “stuff” (especially electronic stuff) just because there’s something new to buy. (Folks, if you saw my laptop, you might feel inclined to pray for me.) But, I finally broke down and got a smart(ish) phone with a data plan. With two kids in tow, being able to use the internets to find out when the bus is coming (et cetera) is really, really useful.

2) Two-wheeled transportation. The bus is great for a lot of trips, but there are occasions–like when I have to get somewhere that’s too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time but not at all convenient by bus–when I wish I had some bike skills (and, in the absence of separated bike lanes, more courage). Earlier this week, after years of saying I should, I finally swallowed my fear, dusted off that Dahon I won three years ago, and rode to the tailor to take some pants in for repair.

The distance (about a 30-minute walk) was perfect for a trial trip. I stayed on back streets and hardly dealt with any cars, which made me wonder what, exactly, I had been so scared of. Plus, it was fun! I zoomed down hills (though I didn’t much enjoy struggling up them), and I didn’t have to wait (no disrespect to the bus) or (my peeve) rush. My goal for 2011 is to ride the bike (solo–not ready for the big leagues yet) for at least one trip per week. Come to think of it, maybe once every other week would be more realistic. Every month for sure. Hold me to it.

And now, I will return to my glass of Cristal(ino) and my Bus Nerd.

Happy 2011, everyone!

Seven freeways that never were

More good stuff from Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt (via Bus Nerd):

The Lower Manhattan Expressway—dubbed “Lomex”—which would have coursed in eight-lane glory through the now-vibrant (and expensive) neighborhoods of Soho and Nolita, is one of the world’s most famous unbuilt highways. The epic battle about whether it should be built is virtual mythology in New York City, pitting the sweeping interventions of Robert Moses against that savior of the street, Jane Jacobs, a conflict of networks against neighbors, a struggle over a road that was either essential to Gotham’s 20th century survival or, in the words of Lewis Mumford, was “the first serious step in turning New York into Los Angeles.” (Not thought to be a good thing.)

A recent exhibit* at New York’s Cooper Union, Paul Rudolph: The Lower Manhattan Expressway—complete with an exhaustively recreated scale model* of the proposed road—provided an opportunity to consider the invisible (and sometimes visible) presence of this and other phantom highways in the world’s cities. Existing merely as segments of many-tentacled schemes on faded planner’s maps, they are more than historical oddities or visions of an alternate future. They’re part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning and possibilities of mobility in the world’s cities: Would their host cities be better off if these highways been built? How should we balance the desire for mobility with the desire to create livable, meaningful urban spaces? Is there any room for the megaprojects of Rudolph in a city that now favors pocket parks and restriped bike lanes?

Read the rest…

Seattle even got a shout–for 520’s ramps to nowhere. Here’s hoping for another miracle.

Are suburbs safer for kids?

Not necessarily. From my latest for Grist:

Cities have a bad reputation with parents, for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest: crime. Ask the average suburban parents why they’ve chosen to raise their family far away from the urban core, and chances are good the topic will come up early in the conversation. Cities might be enriching and green and beneficial for kids in all kinds of ways. But what most parents want to know is, are they safe?

Last week, I chatted with Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, about this very topic. You remember Lenore. She’s the mom who was crucified by the national media back in 2008, after she let her nine-year old son ride the subway alone and then wrote about it for The New York Sun. A self-described “worrier mom,” Skenazy encourages parents — no matter where they live — to move beyond fears and focus on facts.


So I ask you: Where is the woman who wrote an entire book about risks to children (and knows a thing or two about safety) choosing to raise her own family? Yes folks, a city. Actually, the city: Manhattan.

Read the rest…

Trip planning on the go

Earlier today, I received a press release about Metro Mobile, a new, phone-friendly version of KC Metro’s Trip Planner created by benevolent bus rider Nicholas Barnard. I tried the tool for a few sample trips, and it works pretty well—at least, as well as can be expected on my somewhat bootleg phone.

The site lets you select from a list of default locations (libraries, the airport, et cetera). It also lets you set custom locations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t verify the locations before it saves them. I saved my home address, but when I tried to use it, I got that fun Metro page that asks you to select the correct address from a list of six possibilities, including the exact address you entered. It would be nice to be able to (re)select the correct address once and never have to see that page again. (Hey Metro, can we get that on the original Trip Planner, too?)

According to the press release, MM has a GPS feature that can detect your current location, but I couldn’t find it. Perhaps I need a fancier phone.

Even without address checking and GPS, Metro Mobile is a useful tool. I’ll definitely be using it in the real world.

Thanks, Nick!