Tag Archives: car-sharing

The bus family takes a drive

Over the long weekend, we bus types did the Zipcar thing and spent Saturday hiking on Mount Rainier. In the old days (back when it was just Bus Nerd and me), our Tahoma adventures included hard hikes (for which we were rewarded with breathtaking views) and overnight camping. These days, we stick to easy day hikes and settle for great views. I miss our grown-up trips, but I do enjoy bringing the little ones. Exposing Chicklet and Busling to the beauty of the natural world is good for them in all kinds of ways. I hope it will also help them understand why it is crucial that we (and by “we,” I mean humanity in general and Americans in particular) change the way we live and get around.

I digress.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling a bit since I started busing with two babies. The problem isn’t the actual busing –I worked out those logistical kinks pretty quickly; it’s the timing. I feel like I’m constantly rushing or waiting, and doing either with two small children is a heck of a challenge. But folks, it only took a day of driving with two babies to remind me why I am so grateful for my life on the bus.

It wasn’t all bad. The trip to the mountain was fairly–actually, very–pleasant. We left when we were ready instead of scrambling to get everyone out the door by a specific time. The luxury of cargo space allowed us to be pretty indiscriminate about what we brought with us. (Extra books? Extra snacks? Extra clothes? Why not?) We didn’t even bother to organize most of it. Busling slept for the better part of the ride, and Chicklet entertained herself by requesting songs (as it happens, she’s also a Dwele fan) and playing with her dinosaur sticker book. Nerd and I had some rare time to chat. The whole family arrived at the mountain rested and ready for action.*

Tahoma, here we come!
A phone photo before takeoff

The ride back was pretty darn bad. Busling started screaming about 10 minutes in and, except for a few minutes of sleeping, didn’t let up until we arrived home and were finally(!) able to remove him from his car seat. Chicklet spent most of the ride trying to (and succeeding at) removing her arms from her car seat straps. We pulled over once to recombobulate her (while Busling was screaming his head off, mind), but it didn’t take long for her to start up again. If the straps were loose, she removed her arms because she could. If we tightened them, she struggled to get out because they were “too tight.” When she wasn’t endangering her life, she was whining, begging for snacks, and asking when it was going to be time to get out.

I couldn’t reach either child from my position strapped in the front, though twice I twisted myself onto my knees to re-strap Chicklet. I couldn’t even see Busling (he’s still too small to face forward), which is probably just as well, since I don’t enjoy watching him scream.

I never have those kinds of problems with my kids on the bus, mostly because they have my attention. I can hold them, entertain them, console them, and correct and redirect as needed. Yes, the timing can be a pain for me, and the waits** are sometimes tough for Chicklet, but the actual rides are almost always fun. In two and a half (plus) years, I’ve endured exactly one bus meltdown, and that only lasted for two minutes.

What’s a little rushing (or waiting) compared?

*Unfortunately, we had to delay our action for some time, since all of the parking near the trail head was taken. (That’s the thing about cars: You always have to find someplace to put them.) We drove around for a good while, then gave up and parked a decent walk away at the ranger station.
**Thanks to OneBusAway, a lot of the waiting (at stops, anyway) can be avoided. I don’t always take advantage, though, mostly because I’m too busy keeping up with children to look up the stop on my phone.

Speaking of bus fares…

Though I realize that current costs and constraints left Metro little choice but to raise prices, I’m not a fan of using fares (or sales tax, for that matter) as transit funding sources. I’d like to see us use other means, like tolling, congestion charging, and gas and car registration taxes.

As it happens, there’s a bill (HB 1773) in the legislature right now that would allow tolling revenue to be used to fund transit.

And while I’m on the subject: The legislature is also considering (HB 2880) exempting car-sharing members from the rental-car tax. (Guess that petition worked.)

If you’re so moved, contact your state rep and let him or her know that you care about these issues.

About that Flexcar tax…

Remember that insane rental-car tax that the state was trying to impose on car-sharing members? It looks like enough of us raised our voices to give the folks at the Department of Revenue pause.

From today’s Flexcar newsletter:

Rental-car tax update
Last month in FlexNotes, we notified you that the Washington State Department of Revenue advised Flexcar that we must begin to collect the 9.7% state rental-car tax from our members on October 1, 2007. Since then, Flexcar and the Department of Revenue have been in discussions on resolutions to this issue. As a result, for the time being, we are deferring collection of the tax. We will be sure to keep you updated on any developments.

Keep your fingers crossed!

The opposite of a tax break for bus riders

Yesterday, Ben from Capitol Hill hipped me to some information that I apparently missed in the September Flexcar newsletter:

Beginning October 1, 2007, car-sharing in Seattle will be subject to a state-authorized, county-administered rental-car tax of 9.7%. This means that Flexcar Seattle members will be charged this 9.7% tax, in addition to the existing sales tax, bringing your total tax amount to 18.7% for any car-sharing usage on or after October 1.

If this ain’t a prime candidate for an Out of Service

What are we* doing here? Are we seriously going to impose a tourist tax on people who live here and are doing their part to get cars off the road?

If you want to know more about the tax increase, check out Alan Durning’s recent post. If you think it’s as silly as I do, sign this petition.

* Note: I still don’t know who’s behind this decision. It certainly doesn’t seem consistent with the philosophy of our county leadership. Can anyone help?

Flexcar plans to double its fleet

I missed the big press conference on Friday (dang day job!), but KOMO didn’t. Check out this report.

Facts of note:

• The average shared car removes 15 private cars from the road.
• The average Flexcar user spends $85 per month (I spend significantly less) on car use, while the average private car costs $700 a month.
• Flexcar, which started (and is based) in Seattle, now has a presence in 10 cities, including Portland, San Francisco, and L.A.

Did I mention they have Mini Coopers?