Speaking of superheroes…

A couple of Wednesdays ago, I met Tom Bakker, also known as the Human Bus Schedule. If you’ve watched Evening Magazine anytime in the past decade, you probably already know who the Human Bus Schedule is. (Apparently, they taped a show with him in 1996 and have repeated it 23 times since.) Me? I hadn’t heard of him until Charlie Tiebout (of February Golden Transfer fame) introduced us over e-mail.

It all started back in the day, when Metro was still Seattle Transit, and six-year old Tom wanted to try riding the bus. First, he asked his parents if he could take it from their Capitol Hill home to his elementary school. (Hey! That’s how my bus obsession got started.) Being the cool (and highly intelligent) parents that they were, they said yes.

After Tom had proved himself able to get to and from school without incident, he expanded his bus repertoire, buying all-day passes on the weekends so he could explore the city. It wasn’t long before he started memorizing schedules. (Some kids put together puzzles or model trains; budding transit geeks study bus schedules.) And memorize he did. He quickly mastered all the routes in the Seattle Transit system.

These days, Tom still lives on Capitol Hill, only now he rides the bus to work and has memorized the schedule for every Metro and Sound Transit route in existence. (Seriously. I tested him.) He has never owned a car, and, like most transit geeks, can get almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest on the bus. Unlike most transit geeks, he can tell you how to do it (including which routes to catch, transfer locations, and wait times) without consulting a single reference. (Maybe we should call him the “Human Trip Planner.”)

But it doesn’t stop there. Tom knows the routes so well that he helps new drivers (or experienced drivers trying to qualify to drive more routes) learn them. Once, he applied for a job to be a rider information specialist, but he was told he was overqualified. (Folks at Metro: I’d certainly like to talk to someone like Tom the next time I call 553-3000.) Instead, he helps the guests at the hotel where he works and volunteers his time at the Washington State Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When Tom visits a new city, studies the transit system ahead of time so he doesn’t have to rent a car. His favorite US city for transit? Why New York, of course. And speaking of Tom’s favorites…

His all-time favorite bus route is the 209 to North Bend because of the great views. (I’ve never ridden that route, but I will now–especially since my bus-driver-class classmate, Alan Brooks, agrees about the views.) Tom’s favorite in-city route is the 2. Not a bad choice. I have a soft spot in my heart for that route, since it’s the bus I used to ride to school, and–while we’re on the subject of superheroes–Busfather used to drive it.

Tom Bakker, the Human Bus Schedule
HBS at The Crumpet Shop: one Seattle institution, kickin’ it at another