Tag Archives: Cool stuff

Speaking of funk…

A reader from Milwaukee sent me this interactive “smell map” of the NYC subway system. Eww.

She also sent this comment:

What someone should do is have a map where it lists at this stop you have to get the oatmeal cookies from this bakery, from the next stop there’s a place that makes the best doggie biscuits, another stop has a place that’s infamous for its half-priced Monday night sushi… or something of the like. Now that would be grand!

In fact, there is such a map. There’s even one (perhaps in need of an update) for our very own MT route 44. (Thanks, Emily!) I’m going to start working on some similar maps for the routes I frequent. Stay tuned…

And while you’re at it…

Sign up for Slate’s Green Challenge.

Much of the discussion around climate change involves national and international policy–should the United States sign the Kyoto Treaty or increase auto efficiency standards? But even without major political or legislative changes, there’s a lot that concerned individuals can do to make the problem better. To that end, we’ve created the Slate Green Challenge–a straightforward program to evaluate and reduce your carbon emissions between now and the end of the year.

First, you’ll take a quiz to assess your annual emissions. Next, Slate and treehugger.com will put you on an eight-week “carbon diet”–the goal being to reduce your contribution to global warming by at least 20%.

I’m down to participate. Who’s with me? I hear we’re still allowed to eat (locally produced) ice cream.

Speaking of Morocco…

The Car-Free Cities site has an interesting study of the medina (pronounced medeena, and not to be confused with the wealthy suburb just east of us) in Fes.

Fes medina entranceMarket in Fes medina

Most Moroccan cities have medinas (old sections that predate European influence). I lived in one in Rabat (in the Oudaïa Kasbah) for most of the time I was in Morocco. Medinas are car-free because the streets are far too narrow to accommodate vehicles. They’re not necessarily models that can be applied to modern cities, but they are interesting, dynamic, bustling, and walkable in ways that no car-dominated neighborhood could be.

From the Fes study:

While the circumstances in Fes-al-Bali are not ideal…they have posed no significant barriers to the continuance of city life almost entirely free of cars and trucks. Despite the commercial difficulties with freight delivery, the area remains the commercial heart of a much larger city and draws large numbers of shoppers and merchants from other areas of the city.

Of course, to get to and from the medina, there’s always the bus.

“Slugging” goes high tech

Wikipedia defines slugging as, “a form of commuting that…combines a variation of ‘ride-share’ commuting and hitchhiking.” Essentially, folks who need rides stand at designated locations (near bus stops, for example), and folks who need riders (for the HOV lanes) pick them up. Personally, I’d prefer to ride with strangers in a government-sanctioned context, but if it works for other folks…

Slugging is very popular in cities like Washington, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. It happens occasionally in the Seattle area (it’s been happening at Overlake Transit Center for years), but it’s certainly not an established or common practice.


Today I met with Zachary Corker of Goose Networks, a startup that’s brought Seattle’s special high-tech flavor to this ride-sharing phenomenon. Goose’s service “allows commuters to find ridesharing partners in real-time by simply sending a free text message from their existing mobile phones.” Instead of standing on the street and waiting for a stranger to pass, Seattle-area sluggers can sign up for Goose’s service (for free) and send a text message when they’re ready to leave. The system matches drivers and riders and sends a return text message with all relevant information. Users are also screened, so it’s more likely to be safe. Interested? Check out the tutorial on the Goose Networks website.

If you happen to work at Microsoft and live in one of nine central-Seattle zip codes (98101, 98102, 98104, 98109, 98112, 98119, 98121, 98122, 98199), you can participate in Goose’s three-month beta. They even offer incentives like free gas.

Of course, real-time carpooling can’t offer free wireless Internet access, like the 545. I’m just sayin’.

A sustainable Sunday

Sustainable Ballard FestivalThis afternoon, I headed over to Ballard (short walk+3+18) for the third annual Sustainable Ballard Festival. Sustainable Ballard is a nonprofit organization that has gained national attention for working to make Ballard the first carbon-neutral community in the nation.

Today was my first time attending the festival. I gave a short talk at the transportation tent and then spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the booths and learning from the other presenters.

Urban dsign boothAgriculture booth

Metro and the Ballard in Motion folks were there. They were giving away coloring books for kids. I took one for my Godson, Isaac (aka Zaky). And one for me.

Metro's boothMannfred's First Bus Ride

• The talk right after mine, which was all about how to overcome your fear of riding a bike in traffic
• The solar energy and urban design booths
• The free samples at the SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery) booth and the stickers they were giving out: “Bite me. I’m organic.”
• Meeting a bus chick named Kristen (hope I spelled that correctly), who’s so serious about busing she’s doesn’t even have a driver’s license

All in all, it was an educational and fun event–a great way to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday sighting

Busnerd saw this fancy, digital sign on the 48 today:

New 'stop requested' sign

Apparently, it shows the date and time until someone rings the bell to get off, at which point it alternates between the regular “stop requested” text and the date and time. Nice.

I’m hoping these signs will one day be capable of displaying other useful information: the bus’s status (whether or not it’s on schedule, for example) and the status of common transfer routes. And hey, for extra revenue, Metro could sell messages (birthday wishes, marriage proposals, etc.) like they do at basketball games.

Old school meets new school

Buses may be old-school technology (rapid transit now, please!), but at least the folks running our bus system are embracing the future. King County Metro has won several national awards for its Web site, and it ain’t hard to figure out why. The site has a bunch of cool tools, including a video about how to ride the bus (seriously) and a trip planner. The latest is a real-time bus viewer called Tracker. Tracker lets you locate any route, anywhere in the city. This is useful if you’re (for example) leaving work and want to know how many minutes you have before your bus gets to your stop.

A beautiful complement (still in its pilot stages) to all these fun toys is the free wireless Internet access that Metro and Sound Transit offer on certain routes (MT 48, MT 197 and ST 545). Theoretically, with all these tools, a person (a bus chick?) could be riding the bus and at the same time using the trip planner to figure out how to get where she needs to go and the bus viewer to see if she will make her transfer. Very bus chick friendly, no?