Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Bus Fam visits the Motor City (again)

Earlier this month, the four of us spent a week in Detroit (aka, my city-in-law), combining a work conference for me with a visit home (including a celebration of his childhood church’s 75th anniversary) for Bus Nerd. Per usual, I spent much of the visit indulging my Rosa Parks obsession, which included dragging everyone (including my Gail, who had actually already been) on a pilgrimage to the recently* completed Rosa Parks Transit Center.

On paper, the RPTC is everything a bus chick could dream of, and in real life, it lives up to the hype—at least, from the perspective of someone who didn’t actually ride any buses to or from it. It has a heated indoor waiting area; real-time arrival info; a booth selling passes, tickets, and et cetera; and (hands down best of all): a bathroom!

bus stop bathroom

The most important bus stop amenity


Honoring Chicklet’s namesake

As most of you know, Mrs. Parks is one of my idols, for reasons far beyond the (often oversimplified) story of her refusal to give up her bus seat. To be able to bring my children (including my own Rosa) to an amazing public resource dedicated to her memory was an incredibly fulfilling experience.

It was also an incredibly depressing experience.

To say that Detroit’s bus system is in crisis would be an understatement. At one of the conference sessions I attended the day before my visit to the RPTC, I learned that Detroit is 9th in the nation in transit demand–due to the size of the city’s population and the fact that a third of its residents don’t have access to a private vehicle–but 109th in the nation in the service that is deployed to meet that demand. Vehicles are in such disrepair that, on any given day, over a quarter of the buses that should be in service aren’t running. The sytem is out of money** and failing Detroiters by almost every measure. The mayor recently announced that the city is seriously considering outsourcing its management to a private contractor.

So, Detroit has a state-of-the-art, envy-inspiring transit center, and essentially no transit service. Residents (the vast majority of whom are people of color) are regularly missing work, school, and medical appointments; being left stranded at stops at all times of day and night; and enduring unpleasant, overcrowded rides on poorly functioning vehicles.

Anyone who believes, as I do, that basic mobility is a civil right, has to wonder: What would Mrs. Parks think?

*It was officially completed in 2009, which fits my definition of “recently.”
**City buses are operated by DDOT and are paid for out of the general fund. The city is in such dire fiscal straits that it must essentially choose between public safety and basic mobility. The regional bus system (SMART) is also facing major funding challenges.

STRU, part II

The Seattle Transit Riders Union is wasting no time getting started on the (not small) task of organizing the county’s bus riders.

They’ve posted a survey on their site (there’s also a hard-copy version, which they’re conducting in person at stops) and will use the responses to inform their future work. You should take it.

Also, on November 15th, they’re hosting a public forum with King County NAACP president James Bible as the featured speaker.

What: A “public forum and inauguration of the Seattle Transit Riders Union”

Why do we need a Transit Riders Union?
■ Deep bus service cuts were only narrowly avoided in King County…
■ Public transit is under attack in cities across the country…
■ Unemployment is rising and social services are shrinking…
■ The planet is warming and natural resources are dwindling…
■ The global economy is in crisis…

As individuals we feel helpless to do anything, because alone we are helpless. But what can we accomplish when we organize, when we stand up together? The new Transit Riders Union intends to find out.

When: Tuesday, November 15, 6 – 8 PM
Where: The 2100 Building, 2100 24th Ave S (served by the 4, 7, 8, 34, and 48)

See you there!

Happy birthday, Chicklet!

It’s been four years since I brought my sweet girl into the world—and home on the 4.

Yesterday, I was in a nostalgic mood, so I reread my post from her first birthday. People, my baby has been around.

In her first year of life, my child has ridden the following routes:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 36, 41, 44, 48, 54, 55, 56, 60, 66, 70, 74, 134, 150, 174, 194, 230, 255, 358, 545, 550, 554, 590–not to mention the Monorail, Puyallup Fair shuttle, Elliott Bay Water Taxi, Detroit People Mover, Amtrak, Portland Streetcar, and a few Portland bus routes.

It’s just a reminder of how much ground you can cover with only one. I know for sure that Busling didn’t ride that many routes in his first year. I’m not sure he has yet.

I digress.

Since her last birthday celebration, Chicklet has taken a big step in her journey as a BCiT: She started reading! (Well, not reading reading, but sounding out words. It counts.) Soon, I’ll be spending my bus rides kicking back while my little chip off the big chick does the entertaining. In the meantime, I’m enjoying watching her become who she is: a train chick, for those who were wondering. (See self-selected train engineer costume–minus the hat–above.)

Of course, four years of good livin’ for our baby girl = four years of bus parenting for Bus Nerd and me. We’ve learned a lot, and I’ve done my best to share some of it. In case you’re not up for reading an entire category of posts, here are a few of the highlights.

Why public transportation is good for kids
The sane person’s guide to taking kids on public transit
How riding the bus will make your kid smarter
What I’ve learned in my first year as a bus parent
What I’ve learned in my second year as a bus parent
Busing with two babies, part I
Busing with two babies, part II
Busing with two babies, part III

Happy day, baby girl. Thank you for the amazing ride.