Every single seat on my “low productivity” route is taken.
Eff bus cuts.
Every single seat on my “low productivity” route is taken.
Eff bus cuts.
Two days into the reality that King County’s transit system is about to return to 1997 levels of service, I find myself too overwhelmed to say anything coherent on the subject.
Since election night, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking–about how 60 years of social engineering, influenced by a handful of greedy corporations, can create a transportation system that requires people to be able bodied, within a certain age range, and capable of spending many thousands of dollars per year just to have basic mobility.
I’ve been thinking about how a transit agency can be put through the ringer, its finances audited and scrutinized from top to bottom, in order to be granted the right to restore funding that was stripped away by an anti-tax crusader. Then, when that agency is found to be operating soundly, the media call for more “reform” instead of more money. Voters believe them.
Meanwhile, road projects all over the state are mismanaged and bleeding our tax dollars.There are no ballot measures to ask us if we want to pay the bill.
I’ve been thinking about how this state of professed progressives creates task forces to talk about pollution and global warming and pays lip service to social justice but can’t make one single transportation decision the reflects these professed priorities.
I’ve been thinking about how ridiculous it is that in 2014, in this growing, prosperous, innovative county, we’ve had to fight so hard–and for so long–just to preserve a basic bus system.
The thing is, I’ve been thinking about this stuff too much.
Stress about transit cuts has sucked the joy out of the bus for me. How can I write about the cool chick with the “Blasian” t-shirt on my late-evening 27 when WE’RE ALL ABOUT TO LOSE OUR BUSES? It feels frivolous. Worse, it feels irresponsible.
I don’t want to be frivolous or irresponsible, so for eight months, I’ve been silent.
I miss coming here to celebrate buses and trains. I miss telling you guys what I’ve experienced, on the ground, in the seats, and at the stops.
So while I’m figuring out what to say about the big stuff, I’m going to go back to talking about the small stuff—because it will make me feel better. I hope it will make you feel better, too.
Since the last time I posted (in August—ahem), the Bus Fam has been through a few transitions.
For one thing, Chicklet started kindergarten (!), moving us to yet another stage in our bus lives: parenting a school-age kid.
At some point, I will share more extensive thoughts about our experiences so far. For now, I’ll say we are extremely fortunate that there is an amazing preschool on site at Chicklet’s elementary school. Having one drop-off is helpful to all parents; it is the holy grail for bus parents.
We live too close to the school to qualify for a yellow bus, so we walk the half mile both to and from. The route I catch from there to work comes every half hour at peak, so timing can be tricky. Also, there’s weather. But the frantic morning rush and occasional drenching downpours are more than made up for by the joy of spending the beginning of each day on the ground in our neighborhood, hand in hand in hand.
To solidify her full-fledged kid status, Chicklet went and turned six (sniff!), which means she has reached official fare-paying age. (More on this in a later post.) We bought her an Orca card of her own for her birthday, and she wears it on a lanyard as needed. (Otherwise, it’s stored in my bus bag.) The first time she used it was on an 8-ride to Seattle Children’s Theatre, to celebrate her birthday with her oldest friend.
Sweet “baby” Busling grew all the way up; he’s four these days (!!!). On our morning walks to school, he likes to pretend we’re a family of animals—dolphins or lions or cheetahs or ponies—which can be helpful when we’re in a rush. (I’ve never heard of a slowpoke cheetah.)
We’ve taken two 8 rides to meet actual babies (C & B’s new cousins) at the hospital. And, we’ve taken several rides–on multiple routes–to visit them since.
Me? I don’t need anything–other than for my buses to keep running, that is.
If this month’s emergency ballot measure fails, and Metro is forced to make cuts, our family will lose our three most-used routes. Two of our remaining regular routes will be reduced. Only one will remain untouched.
These are not minor inconveniences that require slight adjustments. This is a wholesale dismantling of the bus system as we’ve known it.
Unlike many people who will be affected by the cuts, Bus Nerd and I have the option to buy a car. (By that I mean, we can afford one, we are able-bodied, and we know how to drive.) I have tried to prepare my mind for this possibility and have found that I am completely incapable of imagining it. Not to get all Thelma and Louise, but something has crossed over in me. This bussin’ birdie can’t go back in the car cage.
But not wanting to live a particular way is not the same as not being able to. If we cut bus service, we will cut off basic mobility for thousands of people across the county who don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to buy a car. We will take away people’s access to employment, education, health care, and vital community connections. We will marginalize our elders and our youth, our neighbors and friends with disabilities, and people who don’t happen to have $8,000+ to spend on transportation every year.
And “vulnerable populations” aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable. All of us, no matter how we get around, breathe the same air, drink from the same water supply, and suffer the effects of our warming climate. All of us pay the health, economic, and environmental costs of our car-dependent culture.
I am hoping hard that the citizens of King County do the right thing next Tuesday–because we simply cannot afford not to.
UPDATE, 7/17/13: The rally has been rescheduled to July 27th. The original date conflicted with the National Day of Action for Trayvon Martin. For more information about both rallies, visit the STRU Facebook page. See you on the 20th and the 27th?
This session, the Washington State Legislature failed (again!) to authorize a funding source for transit, and now Metro is going to cut service by 17%. If you ride the bus in King County, it is almost guaranteed that you will be affected.
It’s time to get organized. As a first step, TRU and allies are organizing a rally and demonstration for Saturday, July 20 to ask the resounding question, “WTF, Olympia?” (This, as we all know, stands for Where’s The Funding, Olympia?) But we know transit riders aren’t the only ones who got the short end of the stick. We are asking all individuals and organizations who are fed up with these misleaders in Olympia to step forward.
Do you have a grievance against the State Legislature? Bring it along! We’ll be collecting a busload of grievances to send to certain state legislators. Together our combined voices will echo in the halls of power.
What? A rally and demonstration to express our dissatisfaction with our State Legislature
When? Saturday, July 20, 12:00 pm
Where? City Hall Park, 450 3rd Avenue (south side of King County Courthouse)
Who? Everyone with a grievance
Why? It’s time to get organized!
The Bus Fam will be there. Hope to see you.
Yesterday, KC Metro revised its proposals for the September service restructure.
Metro is inviting public comment on the newly revised September service proposals during a second round of public review this month. Six open houses, 14 information tables, and more than a dozen presentations have been scheduled in neighborhoods that would see the most changes under these proposals. Please check our online calendar for a list of these events.
Open Houses (all 6-8 p.m., except as noted below)
Monday, Feb. 13 – Ballard High School
Wednesday, Feb. 15 – Madison Middle School, West Seattle
Thursday, Feb. 16 – Chief Sealth High School, Delridge/White Center
Tuesday, Feb. 21 – Union Station, Downtown Seattle (12-2 p.m.)
Thursday, Feb. 23 – Queen Anne Community Center
Monday, Feb. 27 – Washington Middle School, Central Area/Mount Baker
Despite the implication that the restructuring is happening to accommodate RapidRide, it’s much bigger than that. Neighborhoods that have no connection to RapidRide (including mine) will see huge changes, including route eliminations. If you ride any KC Metro routes, you should visit the site and let Metro know how the proposed changes will affect you.
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.
– 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
Ladies and gentlemen, the future of buschickdom (buschickhood? buschickery?) is in extremely good (and thankfully, nerdy) hands:
A Personal Teen Story on Why the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge Matters
By Jasmine Beverly
I’m not a stereotypical high school girl. I don’t go to high school dances, I have to be dragged to shop for clothes, and I’d rather spend time with my family than go out with friends. I’m seventeen and I don’t even have my permit or license yet. That’s right, a high school girl without a driver’s permit or license. Reading this story anywhere else, you’d think “Ooh, she lives in the middle of nowhere and is a little farm girl,” or “What a deprived teenager she must be! Living without a car?” or “She must be the nerdy outcast who doesn’t have any friends.” And although I’m a choir nerd, neither of those statements is true; I simply live in Seattle where public transportation is amazing. Well, for now it is.
My current heroes: Every one of these
500700+ people, who stood in line for hours on a Tuesday night to testify before (some members of) the King County Council about what 700,000 hours of bus cuts would mean to them.
If you couldn’t make it to Tuesday’s historic hearing, you have another chance: Let’s do it again in Burien on Thursday!
The County Council is hosting some public meetings about the proposed congestion reduction charge this month. One (in Kirkland), has already come and gone, but here’s the info on the other two:
Tuesday, July 12, 6:00 p.m.
King County Council Chambers
516 Third Avenue, 10th Floor, Seattle
Thursday, July 21, 6:00 p.m.
Burien City Council Chambers
400 S.W. 152nd Street
If you can’t make either meeting, you can submit your feedback here.