Tag Archives: 545

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.

And counting

Earlier this month, I celebrated my car-free anniversary. As of March 5th (or was it the 6th?), I’m officially seven years in.

It’s been an eventful seven years. I bought a home, got married, lost my beloved mother to cancer, and had two children. Navigating so many major life events without a car in a city that all but requires one has certainly had its challenges, but it has also integrated the bus into all of my significant recent memories*–and made it impossible for me to imagine my life without Metro. As I wrote in my Real Change column back in 2006, buses have associations for me.

Riding the Water Taxi reminds me of the days I spent with my mother during her last months of life. The first time I rode it to my parents’ Seacrest Park condo the spring after she died, I cried. Sometimes I still do.

The 545 will forever feel romantic to me, since it’s the route Nerd and I rode together in the early days of our courtship. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more forward to a commute–or for that matter, to anything.

The 4 and 27 are my baby buses–the 4 because I rode it to all of my obstetrician appointments–and home from the hospital with Chicklet; the 27 because I rode it to the hospital to deliver Chicklet and home from the hospital with Busling.

And there are many more. The Ballard buses (17, 18) take me to my brother, Jeremy (and also remind me of my rather unfortunate adventure as a ball-gown model); the 55 takes me to my Joelie and the place I still consider home; the 14 is all about TAC meetings, Top Pot (Summit side), and writing group get-togethers at my friend Marchel’s house (Mount Baker side); the 194: Paris, Detroit, and airport goodbyes with Bus Nerd; the 8: Mom again.

And the 36, though it’s not one of my regular routes, reminds me of why I ride: to be a part of my community, and to share my travels with the people I share the world with.

Bring on the next seven.

*The bus is also integrated into many of my not-so-recent memories, like this one and this one.

Bus Chick plays suburban mom

Last Sunday, the bus fam made a rare weekend trip to the Eastside (48+545+221) to attend a birthday party at–ahem!–Chuck E. Cheese. The place didn’t seem to impress Chicklet much, but then again, she’d already taken three exciting rides (with big wheels and spinning seats and ringing bells!) before we even arrived.

Yesterday, Chicklet and I made another trip to the Eastside (27+550)–for our second-ever visit to Babies R Us. The store itself was a bit frightening (Have I mentioned that I don’t care for shopping?), but the excursion was delightful. The entire trip took three hours, which included about 45 minutes in the store. The rest of the time was spent traveling/waiting, certainly longer than it would have taken to drive (sans traffic) to and from Bellevue, but–by my calculations–we didn’t lose any time. During our trip, Chicklet lunched, napped, and “read” (with the help of Mommy) her latest favorite books. I enjoyed several short, brisk walks in the sunshine (no need to set aside special time to exercise) and quality time with my kid. Had we been home, we wouldn’t have spent the afternoon much differently.

And I challenge any SUV mom to top the big vehicle we used to carry home our purchases.

Happy birthday, Chicklet!

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.

Chicklet at 50 weeks

How I know Chicklet is a true BCiT:

Yesterday, we met my friend Kelley and her baby daughter Evan for our weekly walk/lunch at Green Lake. After lunch, I took a credit card out of my wallet to pay our bill. Chicklet, in her custom of naming everything she sees, pointed at the card and announced (with great enthusiasm), “Buhpash!”*

And then there was this morning, when we three headed downtown on the 27 (eventual destination: Seattle Children’s Theater). As soon as we sat down, Chicklet reached for my bag. “Bik!”** she demanded. “Bik! Bik!”


Chicklet on Halloween
Our seasoned bus rider, celebrating Halloween at Daddy’s office (48 + 545) party

*Bus pass

Speaking of the 545…

At least one rider travels with something other than a laptop:

A Pomeranian in a perambulator

Sorry for the bad phone photo. In case you can’t tell, it’s a dog in a stroller.

This is pretty cute, but I thought ST didn’t allow pets. And anyway, don’t they have to fold those down for the ride, like folks with human babies?

An update on those bus wireless issues

Despite the fact that I’m kind of done talking about bus hackers (ST is aware of–and hopefully working on–the problem, after all) Bus Nerd is making me post this:

A compromised wireless network on the 545

It’s a screen shot of his network connection dialog during a recent ride on the 545. (This time it was coach 9539.) All told, he’s experienced this issue three times in the past few weeks. Just so you know.

Your bus is pwned

A warning for bus wireless users: Bus Nerd suspects a hacker.

This morning I was on the 545 (coach 9549) that left Montlake around 9:30 (yes, thanks to the 48 I was running late). When I tried to connect my laptop to the coach’s wireless Internet connection, I saw an unsecured network, identified as “bus_pwnage,” in the wireless network list.

Translation of “pwn” from hacker-speak (leet-speak) is “own,” the concept of “owning” a victim’s laptop, web site, etc. by hacking it. The bus has likely been pwned by some hacker (h4x0r). [This means that] a connected user might try to visit seattlepi.com, but the compromised bus could redirect her to a hacker site that hands control of the machine to the attacker.

Note that a suggestive network identifier is not definitive proof of breached security, but a hack is the simplest explanation for what I observed. Other supporting evidence: The signal strength for “bus_pwnage” was a constant 100% the entire ride, meaning the originator was travelling with the coach, consistent with the normal bus wireless scenario.

Bus Nerd’s visual aid

How could this happen? Presumably some bus rider with a laptop + skills + nothing better to do exploited a vulnerability in the access point that ST uses to provide wireless Internet access on the bus. The attacker gains control of the access point and, among many resulting powers, she could change the name of the network from something like “Sound Transit” to “bus_pwnage” to announce to the world (well, maybe just the passengers) her defeat of the oppressive regime of Sound Transit. Such a feat isn’t that hard since IT security professionals consider unsecure wireless networks (the kinds found in cafés and yes, public busses) to be as safe as Clay Bennett at Seattle Center. [You had to go there?]

If this was indeed a hack, is the vulnerability limited to just this vehicle? That’s better than a fleet of vulnerable coaches. I let the driver know what I saw, and he seemed hep to the danger and indicated he’d take some (unspecified) action.

As for the alleged bus hacker, will she / he be satisfied with coach 9549, or will she tag every bus ST wireless-enabled bus? Is this a vanity vandalism ploy, or a real threat to bus riders’ computer security? And think of the pandemonium that would ensue if hacked wireless were the jumping-off point to taking over a coach’s external route display – 43’s that advertised themselves as 48’s and other such tricks would be the bus apocalypse.

My guess is it’s just vandalism (for now). I like bus wireless, so I hope ST can demonstrate that my incident was actually benign or let us know they’ve taken steps to prevent intrusions. Until then, bus web-surfers must watch for sharks…

I don’t know, I’m kind of digging the idea of changing (and not just the numbers on the front) some of those ubiquitous 43s to 48s.

Good lookin’ out, Bus Nerd.

The things she carried, part IV (or, Four bags and a baby)

Warning: If you are freaked out by words like “breast milk” and “lactation” (Lord knows I have my moments), you might want to skip this entry. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday before last, after 20 weeks of baby bonding, I returned to work. The separation, though difficult, was made easier by the fact that I left my little chicklet in the capable hands of her father, who has begun his (significantly shorter) parental leave. I digress.

Like a lot of new mothers, I use an electric breast pump during the work day so that Chicklet can get as much breast milk as possible while we’re apart. Unlike a lot of new mothers, I schlep the breast pump to and from work on the bus. (I only work three days a week, you see, and I sometimes need the pump on off days and weekends.) The pump and all its associated parts pack well into the discreet, medium-sized duffle bag they came in, but carrying that bag and my regular bus chick bag, especially during crowded commute times, can be a challenge.

On my first day back, Bus Nerd and Chicklet had an appointment in Redmond in the late afternoon, so we decided to meet at Overlake Transit Center and ride home together. Between the three of us, we had four bags: diaper bag, bus nerd bag (Nerd is still resisting combining his stuff with Chicklet’s), bus chick bag, and breast pump duffle, which, in addition to the pump, contained several ounces of milk.

Having been away from Chicklet for the entire day, I insisted on strapping her on for the ride, so Nerd kindly offered to carry my bus chick bag and the pump. (The man has a virtually unlimited carrying capacity–a good quality in a bus nerd.)

The ride to Montlake was long (due in part to bad traffic and in part to a stupid decision to try riding the 256 instead of my beloved, reliable 545), the wait at the Montlake stop was longer, and the forty-late home was standing-room only. Chicklet and I were offered a seat in the front, but Nerd had to stand in the back with all the bags until a seat opened up. The whole experience required enough shuffling, stacking, and other maneuvering to throw off even the most seasoned bus nerd.

And throw him off it did.

A few minutes after we arrived home, my (helpful, well-meaning) husband realized he had left the breast pump on the long-gone 48.

There’s not much of a market (I hope) for hot breast pumps, so we weren’t afraid it would be stolen, but, given the inconvenience factor, the perishable milk, and the fact that the pump was loaned to me by a friend, waiting until the next day to pick it up at Metro’s lost and found was a last resort. Nerd considered chasing the bus in a cab (as he did during the November wallet fiasco) but decided instead to intercept the coach on its way back north.

He first called the rider information line to see if the folks at Metro could contact the driver for him. As expected, they said they could not, but they did tell him what time the bus was expected at our stop. Nerd watched Tracker until the bus got close, then went outside to catch it.

After enduring a rather public interrogation from the driver, which involved questions like, “What was in the bag?” and “What color was the pump?” (turquoise, for those who were wondering), my hero returned with an intact pump and couple of bottles of (thankfully) unspoiled milk.

Since that incident (much as it pains me), I have stopped taking my bus chick bag to work. I keep my wallet and phone in my coat pockets and shove an umbrella and the book I’m reading into the duffle with the pump. I feel naked without my bus chick necessities, but I don’t want to risk losing that crucial piece of equipment again, and it’s easier to keep track of one bag. (It’s also a lot easier to find a seat without so much stuff to carry.) And the good news is, I’ll only be schlepping the pump for a few more months.

Now if I can just figure out how to manage Chicklet’s stuff

For better or worse, part III

For better: The 48, where everybody knows your name

On Friday, Chicklet and I traveled to the Eastside (48 + 545) to meet Bus Nerd for lunch. My parental leave is quickly dwindling, and we’re trying to get in all the family bonding time we can. I digress.

The 48 ride was one of those cool trips where it feels like you know everyone on the bus. We ran into my friend Paulette, whom I met several years ago (through Bus Nerd) on the 3. Actually, I originally met Paulette many years earlier, when I was still a child, because, as we discovered upon our second meeting on the 3, she knew my dad. Again, I digress.

Paulette is a teacher and a student, and she was on her way to the UW to make copies of some old bound issues of Labor’s Heritage, to do research for a class about education for revolution, or the revolution of education, or some equally cool subject.

I didn’t catch all of the details about her class because in the middle of our conversation, Sarah B, a woman I went to high school with, sat down next to us. Sarah was also on her way to the U, no doubt to work on her dissertation, so she can go ahead and knock out that PhD in environmental anthropology.

We all got to talking–about the sunny weather, the origins of Chicklet’s name, and Paulette’s blog (about local eating) for the Splendid Table.

I got so caught up in conversation that Chicklet and I missed our stop and had to backtrack a couple of blocks (in the sunshine!) to Montlake Freeway Station to catch our transfer.

For worse: Freeway station interrogation

Just as Chicklet and I had settled in on the bench to await the trusty 545, a rather odd man (there were no obvious outward signs of his oddness, but I have very sensitive insanedar, honed from a lifetime of bus riding) sat down next to us.

Odd Man: “Have you seen the 265?”
Bus Chick: “I’ve only been here a few minutes, but I haven’t seen it.”
OM: “But what time is it supposed to get here?”
BC, gesturing toward the enormous sign to our left: “Schedule’s right there.”
OM: “Yeah, but it doesn’t have the 265 on it.”

Having no more help to offer the man, I turned back to Chicklet.

OM: “Is that your only child?”
BC: “Yep.”

And then, with absolutely no transition, he followed with one of my favorite questions:

“Are you half black?”

Of course I could have (possibly should have) shut him down at that point, but I’m a curious person (though apparently not as curious as some), and I wanted to see where his questions were leading.

BC: “Yes, I am.”

He continued to ask (How many siblings do you have? Are your parents still married?) and I continued to answer, until he started asking too many questions about my mother’s death, and I decided I’d had enough.

BC: “These questions are a bit personal, wouldn’t you say?”
OM: “Oh yeah. I bet I’m the only one who’s asked you this stuff, huh?”

Not by a long shot, buddy. Not by a long shot.

Finally, the 255, arrived, (not the bus he’d asked about but apparently the one he decided to take) and he got up. As he waited in line to board, he turned to me one last time.

“Say, is your husband black or white?”