Tag Archives: Learning the ropes

A ride-free cheat sheet

Yesterday, I saw this at the stop on Pike & 3rd:


Since you probably can’t see for yourself, thanks to my sorry picture (hey–the bus was coming) and the PI’s file-size limits (compression is not a blogger’s friend), it’s a map of the Ride-Free zone. It shows which buses go down all of the major downtown streets, and there are arrows that indicate which direction each street runs.

We likey!

Rule reinforcement

On my way home today, I had the rare good fortune to find an open double seat on the westbound 545. The seat was just a few rows back from the reserved section, a perfect location–except that it happened to be directly in front of one occupied by two of the funkiest individuals (stale cigarettes + alcohol + BO) ever to ride the route. I had to hold my breath (with the exception of a few desperate gasps inside my jacket) all the way to Montlake.

Note to self…

Another rule of the ride

Bus Nerd encountered this lopsided seat on his ride to work yesterday:

A broken seat on the 48

He didn’t notice it was broken until he tried sitting in it and instead almost found himself lying in aisle. For the rest of the ride (from a safer location), he watched as person after person attempted to sit in the broken chair. Each time was the same: a brief moment of surprise, a struggle to remain upright, and then a sheepish, red-faced dash toward the remaining empty seats in the back. (A side note: The man sitting on the stable side of this hazard chose not to warn any of his would-be neighbors about the danger they faced.)

Lesson: If you see a wide-open seat on a crowded bus, approach with caution.

About those system maps…

Bus Nerd noticed this at the southbound Montlake stop the other day.

System map at bus stop
Metro’s system map, posted on the back side of a stop timetable.

As I said back in August, it’s good for showing which routes go to specific neighborhoods, but because it doesn’t include most streets, I can’t imagine how it would be used practically–without supplementation by Trip Planner or a rider information specialist, that is. For comparison, check out San Fran’s and Vancouver’s system maps. Both are real street maps that also include bus routes. (Also, in both cities, it’s fairly easy to find paper versions of the maps. I don’t know where to find them here.)

For signs at neighborhood stops like the one at Montlake, I’m envisioning the big system map in the background, with the neighborhood in some sort of magnified call-out, a la Google Transit:

Google Transit call-out
The bus-stop map could include all the streets and routes in the neighborhood.

Metro’s media

1) Beginning bus chicks and bus nerds can learn the ropes by watching this video on Metro’s website. Be warned: No one on the bus is that official or well-mannered. Besides, back in my day, we learned the old-fashioned way: trial, error, and a healthy dose of public embarrassment.

2) King County Television has a new show: Inside Transportation.

The new TV show features two groups of panelists who look at transportation needs in King County from different perspectives. The panelists include: King County Executive Ron Sims, King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, King County Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond, Transportation Choices Coalition Field Manager Rachel Smith, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Executive Director Dennis McLerran, and Barbara Wright with King County Environmental Health.

Inside Transportation airs on channel 22 (72 or 80 in some areas of the county) Tuesdays at 5 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Sundays at 6 p.m. This week’s topic: Transit Now.

Props to the county for including the fabulous Rachel Smith (from TCC) on the panel. I might just have to traipse over to Busnerd’s place and press record on the media center.

Earth Day is also a great day for a wedding

My friend San Juanita (known to those who love her as Janie), whom I also met at Rice, fell in love with Washington on a summer visit many years ago. Lucky for me, the fond memories of that visit came back to her when she was planning her wedding, and she decided to get married here.

The wedding was at Snoqualmie Falls (speaking of breathtaking beauty), and, using my trusty Trip Planner, I learned that you can actually get there on the bus. My parents were invited, too, so we cheated and rode with them, but for those of you who are interested in bussing it to the falls:

1. From downtown (2nd Avenue), catch the 554 Issaquah Express.
2. Get off at Issaquah Park & Ride AcRd (I think this means access road) and 17th Ave NW. The ride should take about 30 minutes.
3. Get on the 209 North Bend. This route takes you right to the entrance of the lodge and also takes about 30 minutes.

Bus Chick and the bride
Bus Chick and the bride

From what I can tell, the 554 and the 209 line up well, so there isn’t a lot of waiting in Issaquah. The entire trip from downtown takes an hour and five minutes, which isn’t much worse than driving.

Another consideration: The Falls have a 90-minute parking limit–unless you want to pay the Salish valets $5 (plus tip).

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?