Tag Archives: hated it!

Respect to those who came before, part V (Or, Why we need Indigenous People’s Day)

Last Thursday, I heard a story on my local public radio station about the “remaking” of Seattle. The host interviewed geology writer David Williams about his book, which details a series of landscape-transforming projects — razing hills, filling in tide flats, and cutting a canal between two lakes — undertaken by white settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Williams, Seattle’s forefathers chose the site for their city based on its useful deep water port, but they found the actual landscape — hilly, and covered with rivers and trees — to be unworkable for their purposes. So, they decided to change it.

During the interview, Mr. Williams described these settlers’ actions as “bold,” “naïve,” and “ambitious.” He even called them insecure, based on his belief that early Seattleites wanted their city to be considered “world class” but weren’t sure it quite measured up.

I paid close attention to Williams’s version of the story, because, only a few weeks earlier, I had seen the documentary Princess Angeline at an event at the Duwamish Longhouse. The film addresses these very same projects, but from the perspective of the Duwamish people, who were the original inhabitants of the land that became Seattle. Far from improving the “habitability” of their homeland, the landscape-altering projects completely destroyed the Duwamish way of life.


But there was not a single mention of the Duwamish people — by Mr. Williams or by the host — in the entire seven-minute interview. There was no talk of violence, greed, or racism, despite the fact that the rivers the Duwamish had used for sustenance and travel for thousands of years were either filled with dirt from the razed hills or poisoned by all of the rapid “progress.” Instead, the interview encouraged listeners to imagine brave, industrious settlers taming an empty (and troublesome) landscape.

This kind of revisionist history, this kind of erasure, happens again and again in the ways we talk about our city — and our country. It reinforces the myth that the United States was founded by pilgrims and pioneers who discovered an empty, resource-rich land and built an exceptional nation. We rarely trouble ourselves with the inconvenient fact that the land was already inhabited when these adventurous, freedom-loving pioneers arrived. Nor do we consider that their descendants continue to live among us.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk by one of my favorite writers, Isabel Wilkerson. Ms. Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns, a history — viewed through three first-person accounts — of the Great Migration of former slaves from the American south to northern cities. The Warmth of Other Suns is easily the greatest work of nonfiction I have ever read, and Wilkerson is an extremely thoughtful and sensitive scholar and writer, attuned to the stories of people who are discounted and marginalized.

And yet, at the end of her talk, she emphasized that each of us in the audience, by virtue of the fact that we were in Seattle, were the descendants of migrants, people who had come from somewhere else in search of a better life. She was doing so to illustrate the parallels between the participants in the Great Migration and immigrants who came from other lands. But her statement involved a basic assumption: that no one in the audience (and by extension, no one in the city) was a descendant of the people who are native to this region.

When we receive — and repeat — these kids of messages, we are reinforcing the idea that Native people either never existed or are a people of the past. It is easier to believe this than to face the truth. But we must face it. We must learn as much as we can about what happened, what was lost, and how we can forge a more just path forward.

Duwamish people in canoes on the Duwamish River

So I am beyond pleased that we have decided as a city to honor, celebrate, and especially, to hear the people whose land we now occupy.

Happy holiday, everyone. See you at the celebration?

When “growing up” = getting behind the wheel

This morning, NPR ran a story about a teenager’s first time driving herself to school. A reporter followed Rebecca Rivers, a high school junior in Canton, NY, from the breakfast table to the parking lot of her high school. (It wasn’t my idea of riveting journalism, but then again, I recently wrote a post about all the parks I visited on the bus this summer. To each her own.) The point of the piece was to focus on an important “rite of passage” in the life of an American child.

During the interview, Rebecca talks about why the milestone of driving solo is so important for her.

When you’re driving a car, you’re totally in control—I mean except for the other drivers. You’re in control, and you get to decide which roads you drive on and which route you take home and where you stop, and there’s something incredibly wonderful about that.

While I can certainly relate to her feelings of exhilaration—I experienced those same feelings when I learned to drive (well) over two decades ago—I would argue that they have very little to do with controlling a vehicle and very much to do with experiencing a first taste of independence.

Much of the reason we associate cars with freedom and control (despite the fact that they have actually stripped us of control of our communities) is because we have created a culture in which they are required for mobility. Kids can’t wait to drive because they want to go somewhere without an adult.

Would this first solo drive have meant so much–Would it even have happened?–if Rebecca had grown up with a bicycle and safe, dedicated paths to ride on? Or if there was a frequent, reliable, free (!) transit system in her town? Or if she had been given the freedom to get around without her parents before she was old enough to drive? Or if there were more constraints on when, where, and how fast cars could travel?

We’ll never know. What we do know is that very few kids in this country grow up with dedicated bicycle infrastructure or frequent, reliable transit–or, for that matter, the freedom to take advantage of the options that are available. Instead, they are shuttled to every destination in the back seat of the family car.

As we continue to indoctrinate our children into an archaic, inefficient, dangerous, and irresponsible transportation system, we are dooming them to a future of poor health, frustration, isolation, and unprecedented environmental catastrophe.

We can and must do better.

Sightline on strollers (or, “What she said”)

Sightline writing fellow Alyse Nelson recently blogged about the hassles associated with taking strollers on KC Metro buses. A taste:

But King County Metro was the sore spot of my car-free life. Agency rules required me to fold Orion’s stroller. Holding all of the stroller’s contents and Orion, I then had to find a seat before the bus lurched forward. The challenge didn’t end once on board. I had to squish into a seat with all of our stuff and attempt to keep Orion from grabbing the stroller’s dirty wheels for the duration of the ride. Once we arrived at our stop, I had to reverse the whole ordeal.

Photo credit: vagabond_shutterbug (flikr)

As someone who would rather strap on an almost-30-pound, squirmy toddler or walk miles in bad weather than bring a stroller (plus two children) on the bus, I can relate. And don’t get me started on transfers.

Regardless of the reasons for Metro’s policy, which are not entirely clear (and, as far as I can tell, not explicity stated on the agency’s website or any of its printed materials), there isn’t much doubt that it makes busing extremely inconvenient and stressful (if not downright impossible) for parents, many of whom do not have other transportation options. And the thing is, (as Nelson discusses in her post) there are alternatives.

Back in ’06, Oakland-based Transform was instrumental in changing the stroller policy on Tri Delta Transit (in Contra Costa County).

ANTIOCH, CA, March 31, 2006 – The Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority (Tri Delta Transit) recently became the first transit agency in America to create a designated stroller area on buses. In March, 2006, Tri Delta Transit took the precedent-setting, proactive step of removing one set of seats on each of its 40-foot fixed route buses, designating the remaining space for passengers with strollers. To date, 90% of Tri Delta Transit’s available fleet has been retrofitted with the new stroller area and the remaining 10% should be completed by mid-April, 2006.

You can read the rest of the press release (which includes the details of the policy) here.

Call me cynical, but I don’t see Metro’s stroller policy changing anytime soon. (The way things are looking, I’ll be happy if the routes I ride regularly are still around in a year.) It would be nice, however, if the current policy was at least clearly posted and consistently enforced.

And would it be too much to ask for a moment to find a seat (or at least a pole to grab) before the bus takes off?

2011: The bus year in review

The bus theme for 2011 was “adjustment.” It was a tough year on several fronts.

1) Busing with babies
I started the year grappling with the awkwardness of traveling with a toddler and a preschooler. The challenges increased as the year progressed (and baby #2 grew heavier, squirmier, and more opinionated). We still got around, of course, but I always felt like I had to choose something to sacrifice: convenience, physical comfort, carrying capacity, or sanity. Usually, it was two of the four.

I’ll admit that problem-solving isn’t my strong suit*, but I’m still convinced that most of the challenges I’m dealing with are inherent to our situation** and are just going to have to be endured. I’m hoping that by this time next year, things will have (mostly) worked themselves out.

2) Bus cuts
What’s a little kid-related bus inconvenience compared to no buses? Those of you who live in King County no doubt remember this summer’s terrifying, “we might have to cut 17% of your service” moment. The County Council passed the (temporary) congestion reduction charge, but the problem hasn’t gone away–for KC Metro, or for transit agencies across the state (CT and PT have already implemented drastic cuts) and the country. If the state doesn’t figure out a real solution to the transit revenue problem ASAP, those barely averted cuts will become a reality.

In the meantime, riders (including this one) are already feeling the pinch. Metro is closing stops, reducing hours, eliminating routes, and taking other steps to save money in anticipation of its bleak revenue future.

3) Bus access
2011 was the Bus Fam’s first full year in our new home, which, though only five blocks from our old (and beloved!) one, sometimes seems worlds away. We still ride all the same routes, but instead of being across the street from three major stops (two of them sheltered), we are blocks away from even the closest. Only one of the nearby stops has a shelter—if you can call it that. (No bench? No windows? No thanks!) Being off the busy thoroughfare has plenty of advantages, but I’m just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were, bus-wise, at the old place.

Further complicating my adjustment to our new bus reality is the fact that the stop where we used to catch the 4 and 48 was recently (and rather unceremoniously) closed by Metro. Now we walk close to half a mile to catch those routes–not so fun when traveling with two small people in the rain. Our bad for basing our home selection on the location of bus stops, I guess.

And speaking of…

Choosing a home based on access to particular routes is also probably not the best plan. Metro’s proposed service revisions include the elimination of the 4 and the drastic reduction/alteration of the 27.

Apparently, “transfer” will be my bus theme for 2012.

*I almost always prefer continuing to do what I’ve been doing to actually putting in time (and research!) to figure out a new way to approach a problem. By the time I figure out a good way to handle a situation, there’s a new problem to deal with.
**My situation:
– An almost two-year old who doesn’t do well in a carrier anymore but isn’t quite ready to consistently walk the kinds of distances we cover
– A reasonably mature four-year old with a tendency to dawdle without a firm hand grip + a mom who is way(!) too paranoid about cars to let said four-year old walk near busy streets without holding a hand
– A transit system with few low-floor buses, a difficult stroller policy, and mediocre stops
– Frequently crowded buses
– Frequently rainy weather

Did I mention that they closed my stop?

This will teach me to choose a home based on its proximity to bus stops.*

Stop closed!

Dear bus rider: You’re screwed.

I’m more than a little irritated that Metro posted this notice in August and then never even responded to the feedback they requested–mine or anyone else’s.

I get all the stuff about stop consolidation and blah, blah, blah, and I will even admit to being a bit of a NaMBS (as in, “Not at my bus stop!”) about this. But there are legitimate reasons (other than the fact that I really need it) that this stop–and the one across the street from it–shouldn’t be closed.** If Metro doesn’t consider the reasons legitimate, they should explain why.




*I should have gone with my instinct and moved near a Link station. Call me crazy, but I wanted to stay in my neighborhood.
**And hey, if they’re looking for stops to close, there are two stops less than a block apart slightly further north.

Catching up (a little)

While I’ve been focused on learning to fold an umbrella stroller with a baby on my chest, a bag on my shoulder, and a two-year old in my grasp (more on that in a future post), the transit world has continued to turn–sometimes around unpleasant corners.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the video of the tunnel beating, but I’ve been paying attention to the discussion. It feels very close to home and very threatening, both because the victim turned out to be the cousin of a family friend, and because it happened on the heels of the assault I recently witnessed on the 4. I’ve never felt that the tunnel was particularly safe,* but that was mostly because of the stairwells and other areas where it would be easy to corner someone. I certainly didn’t think that a major assault could happen on the platform, in front of several witnesses.** Then again, that’s what I said last month.

On a happier note, Clarence from Streetfilms paid a visit to our fair city earlier this month. He came to check out Link and has posted some cool videos from his trip (including one of him biking with Mayor MCGinn) on the Streetfilms site.

More catching up to come.

UPDATE, 3/4: The Link video’s up.

* For me, stops and stations have always felt much less safe than buses–for a variety of reasons.

In this case, they were witnesses who were paid to prevent such an assault from happening–or so we thought. Now, of course, there’s an outcry about the quality of tunnel security and transit security in general. (We’ll see what happens with the new contractor.) Lord knows I want buses to be safe (and how!) but as far as I know, no one’s offering up additional sources of funding.

The morning after

This morning, at about 9:30, I hopped on the 4, headed to my bazillionth obstetrician appointment. (Due date was Sunday and BB2B, who is apparently taking after Big Sister, does not seem eager to make an appearance.) It started out as an uneventful ride–a crowded and quiet (wrapped) trolley inching its way west on Jefferson toward downtown–until we pulled up to the stop at 12th.

Even though I had brought my bus read, I chose to spend the ride staring out the window and daydreaming, so I immediately noticed an odd woman standing at the stop, pulling her t-shirt up over her nose and flailing her arms (as if preparing for a race) while everyone else was boarding. Just as the driver was about to take off, she ran to the back entrance and grabbed both doors, leaving her sweatshirt and bag on the bench behind her. She held the doors for at least 30 seconds, then rushed aboard the bus and attacked the woman sitting directly behind me. It became clear almost immediately that: 1) the attacker did not know her victim and 2) she was completely out of her mind.

She grabbed a fistful of the woman’s hair and yanked, slapping and hitting her anywhere she could reach, all the while yelling and ranting at the top of her lungs. Another woman tried to stop the assault and was hit several times for her trouble. To our shero’s credit, she didn’t let up. The attacker continued to lunge at her victim, only letting go of her hair long enough to fend off the shero and to slap a man sitting nearby.

SPD arrived within a minute. The woman ran off the bus as soon as she saw the cops, though whether it was to get away from or confront them, I am not sure. Whatever the case, they apprehended her without much effort, though not before she managed to tear off her t-shirt and toss it at them. She was arrested, face down on the sidewalk, in nothing but her bra.

I’m still rattled, for so many reasons it’s hard to isolate why.

I’ve been riding Metro buses for 30(+) years, and I’ve witnessed my share of drama, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt afraid on a ride. I should say, of course, that this attack wasn’t specific to the bus; it could just have easily happened to someone walking by this woman on the street. (And Lord knows, crazy people attacking at random, in all kinds of settings, is far too common of late.) But, since this particular act of violence did happen on the bus, while I was riding, it’s worth discussing.

This wasn’t a fight between people with a specific beef, which can be disturbing but rarely feels threatening; it was a random attack on a woman who was minding her own business on her way to work. (It also happened to be a woman I’ve been seeing on buses for years–and who I consider to be part of my “bus family“–which made it hit closer to home.) I travel on the 4 with Chicklet all the time. What would I have done (and how would I have been able to protect her) if that woman had come after us?

I take normal precautions to stay safe (don’t travel alone at night except to places with substantial foot traffic, don’t wait at isolated stops, stay aware of my surroundings), but I’ve always felt that broad daylight on a crowded bus (or street) is about as safe as it can get. All of a sudden, even though I know intellectually that these types of incidents don’t happen often, I feel vulnerable in ways I haven’t in the past.

And that’s another thing: Only one person on that entire crowded bus lifted a finger to help the woman who was being attacked. Yes, we were all in shock (and many of us–especially big, lumbering, off-balance me–wouldn’t have been of much help), but mostly, I think, we were just worried about our own safety. I wanted the attacker to stop hurting the woman, but I was spending most of my brain cycles figuring out how to keep her from hurting me.

And that, after all of yesterday‘s celebrating and marching and talking and thinking and teaching my kid about peace and justice and concern for one’s fellow human, is more than a little disappointing.

NOT my kind of transit advertising (or, Buh-bye, WaMu)

Really, Chase?

A Chase ad on a 53

This ad is wrong on so many levels, I don’t know where to start. (Fellow Seattleites: You feel me?) If it weren’t for Brown Bear’s awful, self-congratulatory campaign*, this would win the award for worst bus ad ever.

*Of course, I can’t seem to find a picture of it now (will link to one soon), but you know the one: “Favorite car wash of local salmon.”