Tag Archives: drivers

10 years in

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of my full-time relationship with Metro. The milestone snuck up on me, which is actually a good thing, since I’m not in the mood for a retrospective, and I don’t have any wise words about what I’ve learned in a decade of living, working, and parenting without a car. Honestly (in case the five full months without a post didn’t clue you in) I haven’t felt much like writing about the bus at all.

What’s on my mind most of the time is how our family is going to continue to make this bus life work. We’ve lost a lot that we counted on: two of our nearest bus stops, frequency and hours of operation on two of our most-used routes. If the legislature decides–for the fifth year in a row–not to let local communities decide how to fund their own transit service, we stand to lose much, much more.

And we’re not the only ones. All over the state, people are losing transit service they rely on, while we profess a desire to care for our most vulnerable citizens and wring our hands over global warming, air pollution, and ocean acidification. The fact that transit advocates have to scrap and hustle (and beg) just to get enough money to preserve basic bus service leaves little hope that we will ever find the will to make the long overdue, revolutionary changes our transportation system desperately needs.

So the thing is, I’ve been tired–of trying to make things work with diminished access and diminished service, and of fighting an uphill battle to fund transit statewide. I allowed myself to feel discouraged. And really, really angry.

But then, I had coffee with Christine.

Like me, Christine is a bus chick. Unlike me (knock wood), Christine is expecting. Earlier this year, she contacted me over the internets to pick my brain about busing with babies, and I was more than happy to share what I know. I suggested meeting for coffee, because I knew she’d never read the 300 pages I would have typed if I had shared my thoughts over email. I don’t like to brag, but if there was such a thing as a PhD in riding transit with kids, folks would be addressing me as Dr. Bus Chick.

But I digress.

At some point during our conversation, Christine remarked on the relative dearth of negative posts on my seven-year old blog and noted that I almost never write about the challenges of bus parenting. I do intentionally try to keep my blog positive, but until my chat with her, I hadn’t really considered why.

It’s not that there aren’t challenges (are there ever!). It’s not that I am trying to paint an unrealistic picture of what it is like to parent without a car. It’s not even that I have an optimistic nature (see above). I tend to write about the positive side of carfree parenting because the challenges of living this way are already known—or at least, they are imagined.

There is a reason why so many people think I’m crazy. Why I’ve been interviewed for TV and radio for doing something that thousands of parents in this county do every single day. Why, after a decade of watching us live this way, friends and family still regularly offer us rides. It is because most people who have a choice would choose differently. This means they have already considered, imagined, and just plain made up all of the reasons why it would be stressful and inconvenient to try to get around with two kids and no car.

What most people haven’t considered is just how exhilarating, bond-enhancing, and three-dimensional it is to ride the bus with your children. How your kids get to experience their city from ground level. How they come to know each season intimately. How they run into church members, neighbors, school mates, family friends, and medical assistants from their pediatrician’s office. How so many of the regular drivers recognize them and give them suckers and transfers and high fives. How they learn every sidewalk crack, every overgrown bush, and every window display in your neighborhood. How they love the silly games you make up to pass the long waits. How you have time to read them so many books that soon they are reading books to you. How you can hold them close and talk in their ears and smell their hair while all of you zoom past the Space Needle, or across a bridge, or through a tunnel.

That is what I write about because that is what I know. It is why I ride. And it’s why I never stay tired for long.

 

KC Metro’s finest

Congratulations to Bruce Kennedy, KC Metro’s 2011* Operator of the Year. Bruce, who drives the 346, is a 36-year Metro veteran with “a near-perfect safety record, excellent reliability, and a professional attention to quality service.” (You can read the entire announcement here.)

2011 OOY

I’ve only ridden the 346 once–to Ingraham High School’s 2007 graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, the driver I had for that trip did not exhibit the same concern for safety as our reigning OOY.

Unfortunately, the young men with the Sidekick weren’t the only folks making use of handheld devices. Our 346 driver spiced up the ride by driving one-handed while chatting on his cellie.

Thanks for keeping it professional, Bruce.

***
*Yes, 2011. Recipients are chosen based on their service in the previous year.

Bus Driver Appreciation Day, 2011

Green beer and pinching are all well and good, but that’s just the warm-up to March’s most important holiday. Folks, tomorrow, March 18th, is the day to say thanks to all the hard-working men and women who do what it takes to get you where you’re going. Some manage to do it while adding a little flavor or humor to the ride. Others while (no disrespect to my Bus Nerd) looking ridiculously good. There’s an 8 driver out there who really needs to be in some sort of calendar. And while we’re on the subject: Why is there never a Stranger’s Sexiest category for bus drivers?

I digress.

Fellow transit types, go forth, and appreciate. But no pinching!

A new bus hero

Metro's SupermanCongratulations to Marvin White (aka “Superman”), Metro’s 2009* Operator of the Year. I missed the big surprise ceremony (again), and that’s unfortunate; I would have liked to have had an opportunity to meet him.

Here’s what the folks at Metro had to say about the 31-year veteran, who currently drives the 271:

Bus riders on many Eastside routes think White is the Superman of Metro drivers. They describe him as kind, courteous, skilled, and gifted with an ability to stay on schedule “…despite I-405 traffic.”

[…]

“Marvin is one of those operators who knows many of his passengers by name, even though he picks a new route to drive three times a year,” said Metro’s Manager of Operations Jim O’Rourke. “When he goes on vacation, his passengers actually send us emails to tell us they miss him.”

[…]

White does manage to sneak in a little free time away from his driving duties. He’s an avid bicyclist and an accomplished musician. He’s played in several Metro-employee bands during his years with the agency.

But he can’t stay away for long – his customers won’t stand for it.

Here’s a sampling of comments from Metro passengers about White:

• “He always has something good to say to everybody, and he greets at least one-third of the passengers on his bus by name every time they get on or off.”
• “When he is not driving the route, the passengers just sit and avoid eye contact. As long as Marvin is at the wheel, everyone is jovial and filled with camaraderie.”
• “If Metro could clone Marvin White, you would double your bus riders in a hurry!”

A multi-modal type who cares about people and sparks bus-wide discussions? Time for a trip on the 271!

*Yes, I know it’s the middle of 2010, but it’s how Metro does it:

Since 1978, the drivers themselves have selected the best of their peers to hold the title of Metro Transit’s Operator of the Year. In order to receive the award, a driver must be chosen as Operator of the Month from one of the seven transit bases. At the end of the year, the Operator of the Year is selected by a vote of all fellow Operators of the Month. The annual ceremony is usually held the following summer.

Today’s the day!

Call me a BDP or a mindless Metro booster if you must, but I’m excited to celebrate Bus Driver Appreciation Day. I am grateful for all the hard-working men and women who’ve been getting me there for six years and then some, and I’m especially grateful for those who’ve managed to do it with a smile (or a little music).

This new (because we said so!) holiday seems like a pretty good excuse to share stories about our favorite–and most memorable–drivers. What you got?

And speaking of crafts…

On our 48 ride home yesterday, a very kind bus driver gave Chicklet a page to color. She (the bus driver) had a whole folder full of these:

Chicklet's bus masterpiece
Chicklet’s masterpiece, completed post-ride. Limited (but appropriate!) color palette provided by Mom.

And, I assume, she dispensed them to other pint-sized riders throughout the day. Nice touch. Now all they need is Metro-themed crayons.

Update, 2/9:

Another ride (with the same driver), another picture:

Picture
My 16-month old artiste
Picture
Happy she got to choose her own colors this time

I love riding on the coloring-page-woman’s bus. She’s friendly and helpful to everyone, remembers passengers from one day to the next, and knows a lot about the city and the route she drives. She even has a sign in her front window that says, “I love my job.” (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo of it.)

We can tell, Ms. Bus Driver. We can tell.

Southbound 16, 7:50 PM

As I exit the bus at 3rd & Union, the driver calls to me.

“Excuse me, miss. Excuse me!”

I hurry back up the steps, flustered, certain I have either dropped something or somehow managed to forget I’m on a “pay as you leave” route. But the driver is smiling.

“I was just wondering: What is that delicious fragrance you’re wearing?”