Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011: The bus year in review

The bus theme for 2011 was “adjustment.” It was a tough year on several fronts.

1) Busing with babies
I started the year grappling with the awkwardness of traveling with a toddler and a preschooler. The challenges increased as the year progressed (and baby #2 grew heavier, squirmier, and more opinionated). We still got around, of course, but I always felt like I had to choose something to sacrifice: convenience, physical comfort, carrying capacity, or sanity. Usually, it was two of the four.

I’ll admit that problem-solving isn’t my strong suit*, but I’m still convinced that most of the challenges I’m dealing with are inherent to our situation** and are just going to have to be endured. I’m hoping that by this time next year, things will have (mostly) worked themselves out.

2) Bus cuts
What’s a little kid-related bus inconvenience compared to no buses? Those of you who live in King County no doubt remember this summer’s terrifying, “we might have to cut 17% of your service” moment. The County Council passed the (temporary) congestion reduction charge, but the problem hasn’t gone away–for KC Metro, or for transit agencies across the state (CT and PT have already implemented drastic cuts) and the country. If the state doesn’t figure out a real solution to the transit revenue problem ASAP, those barely averted cuts will become a reality.

In the meantime, riders (including this one) are already feeling the pinch. Metro is closing stops, reducing hours, eliminating routes, and taking other steps to save money in anticipation of its bleak revenue future.

3) Bus access
2011 was the Bus Fam’s first full year in our new home, which, though only five blocks from our old (and beloved!) one, sometimes seems worlds away. We still ride all the same routes, but instead of being across the street from three major stops (two of them sheltered), we are blocks away from even the closest. Only one of the nearby stops has a shelter—if you can call it that. (No bench? No windows? No thanks!) Being off the busy thoroughfare has plenty of advantages, but I’m just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were, bus-wise, at the old place.

Further complicating my adjustment to our new bus reality is the fact that the stop where we used to catch the 4 and 48 was recently (and rather unceremoniously) closed by Metro. Now we walk close to half a mile to catch those routes–not so fun when traveling with two small people in the rain. Our bad for basing our home selection on the location of bus stops, I guess.

And speaking of…

Choosing a home based on access to particular routes is also probably not the best plan. Metro’s proposed service revisions include the elimination of the 4 and the drastic reduction/alteration of the 27.

Apparently, “transfer” will be my bus theme for 2012.

***
*I almost always prefer continuing to do what I’ve been doing to actually putting in time (and research!) to figure out a new way to approach a problem. By the time I figure out a good way to handle a situation, there’s a new problem to deal with.
**My situation:
– An almost two-year old who doesn’t do well in a carrier anymore but isn’t quite ready to consistently walk the kinds of distances we cover
– A reasonably mature four-year old with a tendency to dawdle without a firm hand grip + a mom who is way(!) too paranoid about cars to let said four-year old walk near busy streets without holding a hand
– A transit system with few low-floor buses, a difficult stroller policy, and mediocre stops
– Frequently crowded buses
– Frequently rainy weather

Why we walk

Fun figurines at small people’s eye level:

Chicklet's favorite window

 

 

 

 

 

 

My small people have been enjoying these dolls, displayed in a ground-level apartment window on one of our well-beaten walking paths, as long as they’ve been aware enough to look around. Chicklet’s favorite is the dancing couple in the back. Busling likes the guy with the “insrament.”

On traveling and time, part II

For going on four years now, Chicklet and I have had a standing Friday date with my friend Kelley and her daughter, Evan. (For almost two of those years, sweet Busling has tagged along, too.) When the girls were infants, we met at Green Lake for grown-up walking and talking, but as they grew older and our get-togethers became more about them, we started to branch out. Common meeting places these days: parks (Green Lake included), the Children’s Museum, Central Library, Aquarium, Zoo, and et cetera.

Most of the time, it takes my crew longer to travel to a meeting location than it takes our friends.* This is because our travels include walks and waits, and because it (usually) takes a bus longer to get from one place to another than it takes a car. On the other hand, we never have to spend 10 minutes driving around the GLCC parking lot (or the block) waiting for someone else to leave. And since, as bus people, we pretty much always have to be out of the house on time, we regularly find ourselves at the meeting location ahead of our friends, enjoying a few extra minutes of playtime while we wait.**

The most recent example of this was last Friday, when the five of us decided to meet at the holiday carousel at Westlake. We bus types opted to take the 27 because, well, we always do. Kelley drove. Since (as of July) Kelley and her family live about a mile southeast of us, she took the same route that the 27 takes to get downtown. While I was waiting at the stop with my kids, Kelley and her kid passed by in their car–mere seconds before our chariot pulled up. By the time we boarded, they were a couple of lights ahead.

I’ll let you guess who was waiting for whom at the carousel entrance.

Score one for the bus moms.***

***
*It’s sometimes hard to compare, since, until recently, they were coming from a different part of town.
**This is not to say that the bus is always the preferable way to travel. Early arrival or no, there are times (like, say, when it’s pouring, the bus is late, and it’s past naptime) when even a bus chick envies the comfort (and corralling and carrying capacity) of her friend’s fashionable (and warm!) black mom-mobile.
***Of course, Kelley’s child actually rode the dang thing–twice–while my two stood at the front of the line screaming in terror, but hey. You win some, you lose some.

See also, On traveling and time

Eastbound 3, 2:30 PM

At the stop near 8th, the driver gets on the mic and says, “Oops. You went too far.” When no one responds, he looks in his rearview mirror and tries again. “Wasn’t one of you looking for Union Gospel Mission?”

After another silence, several of us begin turning in our seats to see who he is talking to. In the process, our eyes scan the man sitting to my right, who has spent most of the short ride talking loudly on his cell about all the money he’s earned this year, and, in particular, this week.

“Don’t look at me,” he huffs. “I’m a certified public accountant.”

Thank you (again), Sister Rosa

The current temperature in Montgomery, AL: 39 degrees. (To Bus Nerd’s down-south fam: My condolences.)

It is just now occurring to me how ridiculously courageous it is to start a bus boycott in December.* Shoot, just getting to church (which is only a mile north of us) on foot last Sunday in the pouring, freezing rain was an adventure. Our boycott was accidental (we missed the bus), but, now that our stop has been removed, we have to walk almost a half a mile just to get to a 48. So, bus or no, we’re going to get wet.

But I digress.

While we’re on the subject of Mrs. Parks (yes, again!), I might as well share with you that, on my latest visit to Detroit, I finally visited the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford. (I didn’t mention it in the original post, because I had already spent too much time gushing about the Rosa Parks Transit Center. And, yes, I realize that it might be time for an intervention.) Fellow bus chicks, behold:

Rosa Parks bus

My Rosa sitting in THE Rosa’s seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds, will continue in others.” – Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

***
*Over time, the boycott developed a pretty sophisticated system of carpools (you can read more about it in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom)–despite police harassment and legal challenges–but many of the participants in the boycott walked very long distances in all kinds of weather.