Tag Archives: Pierce Transit

A February adventure, Bus Fam style

On Saturday, my crew took a transit trip to the Tacoma Musical Playhouse. We rode three routes on three different systems: the 14 (King County Metro) from our neighborhood to downtown Seattle, the 594 (Sound Transit) from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma, and the 1 (Pierce Transit) from downtown Tacoma to the theater. It was a two-hour trip, including walks and waits. Good thing we had our books, cubes, and snacks packed and our adventure hats on.

Even though we ride the 14 regularly, there is something about traveling during “off” hours that makes it more fun. When buses are less crowded, drivers are more relaxed, and there is a solidarity and camaraderie among passengers that leads to conversations — and frequent bus-wide discussions. Our early Saturday morning 14 was one of those special rides, and it put us in just the right frame of mind to enjoy the rest of the day.

The 594 was exciting for Chicklet and Busling, who are used to city buses and did not know what to make of a Sound Transit commuter vehicle. When I showed them that their seats could recline, they just about fell out.

The 1 ride to the theater was a 30-minute trip down Tacoma’s busy 6th Avenue. Who needs expensive vacations when you can take the bus through a neighboring city? It was fun to notice the differences : the velvety bus seats (which are easier to ride on because they are not slippery but which kind of freak me out because I once read that they’re teeming with scary bacteria), the location-specific bus ads, and the shops and other sights.

It was also pretty amusing to experience all the things that were the same. There was the bus breakdown. Two stops into our first 1 ride, our driver had to “switch coaches” because of an unexplained mechanical problem. There was the Inappropriate Questioner — this time, a middle-aged white woman who yelled across the aisle to a young, light-skinned black man that he looked just like Gregory Hines (he didn’t) and then proceeded to interrogate him about his knowledge of the famous dancer. There was the Manspreader (in his defense, the bus was half empty, so he wasn’t actually encroaching on anyone), who spent the better part of the ride scratching his back with a butter knife. And, at the stop where we got off, which is a half block off of one of Tacoma’s busiest streets, there was this.

Different city, same bus problems. Exhibit D: junk blocking the sidewalk.

Despite the minor setbacks, we arrived at the theater with plenty of time for a stop at the restroom (which had a chaise!) and a little exploring before the show started.

And about that show…

And now, perhaps, you understand my motivation to travel all the way to Tacoma to watch a “family musical.” The show was absolutely wonderful and somehow managed to please all four of us. Not only was it historically accurate — it even included the story of Claudette Colvin and dispelled many myths about Parks’ life — but it was also entertaining and incredibly inspiring.

We tend to see history’s heroes (and sheroes) as Chosen Ones, special people who embrace their destiny as our saviors. The truth is, heroes are almost always regular folks with families and fears and bills to pay. This was certainly true of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, E.D. Nixon, Joanne Robinson, Virginia Durr, and the countless unrecognized people who risked and sacrificed for 381 days.

Their resistance was radical and dangerous. They faced violence from terrorists and from those who were sworn to protect them from terrorists. They had no reason to believe that their boycott would be successful, and they had every reason to believe that tremendous harm would come to their families if they continued. Yet day after day, setback after setback, they faced down their fear and doubt and chose to act with hope and courage. Their example is an enduring reminder that justice is not inevitable. It requires struggle. It requires us to persist in moments when it would be far easier not to.

I am grateful to Sue Greenberg and the Tacoma Musical Playhouse for bringing this beautiful struggle to life for my family.

And speaking of family…

My other motivation for a bus adventure to Tacoma was (and will remain) my hilarious, adorable three-year old niece, HD. After the show, HD and her mama met us for lunch at a fun burger joint near Wright Park — another 1 ride in the opposite direction. They also took us on a tour of Stadium High School (which is a short walk from the restaurant), so my Harry Potter-obsessed children could pretend they were visiting Hogwarts.

Coolest high school ever

Stadium’s stadium

After our rainy tour, we decided to continue our sightseeing on foot. We said goodbye to our guides and walked the mile to the nearest 594 stop. Then we headed back north, spending most of the ride napping contentedly in our reclining seats.

Sure, our excursion had its share of wet socks, waiting, and whining (mostly, in the form of begging for treats at the theater), but those irritations will be quickly forgotten. What we will remember about our February Tacoma adventure is that it stimulated our curiosity and imagination, fortified our courage, and connected us with our family and community. In my book, that’s as close to perfect as an adventure can get.

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style (part II)

A lot has happened since my last post. (This is mostly because I wrote it over six weeks ago, but it was a pretty jam-packed end of summer.) For one thing, my baby brother got hitched. (!) And also, we made a trip to the Puyallup Fair.

The last time we did the Puyallup (way back in ’08), Pierce Transit offered a shuttle from Tacoma Dome station right to the fairgrounds. The trip was reasonably painless but did involve two transfers and a bit of a roundabout route. These days—in case you haven’t heard—Pierce Transit is broke. The agency has been forced to cut a lot of vital service, so obviously, the fair shuttle had to go.

So, when we talked about going to the fair again this year, I assumed it was going to be a hassle to get there. I’m no stranger to transit adventures, but I do have my limits, and a day at the fair with two children is exhausting enough without bookending it with a couple of bus marathons.

As it turns out, the fairgrounds is only a little more than half a mile from Puyallup Station. (Thanks for the tip, Priya!) To get there, we caught the 578* from 2nd & Pike and then walked the .6 miles (through a pleasant downtown area, on sidewalks) from the station to the fairgrounds. The 578 isn’t a straight shot (it stops in Federal Way, Sumner, and Auburn), but it mostly sticks to transit centers and the freeway and keeps the stopping and starting to a minimum. Our total travel time was roughly two hours, including walks and waits. The cost: $2 of extra charges on our Orca cards for the 578 ride.

The ride back was even better (and significantly shorter), since the Sounder was running. We walked the same .6 miles back to Puyallup Station and caught the 4:37 PM train (the first northbound train after the morning rush) back downtown. Have I mentioned that I love the Sounder? It delights me. Our total trip time—from the fair exit to our front door—was an hour and a half, and the train ride was easily as fun as anything we did at the fair. And speaking of…

All four of us had a fantastic time. We ate ice cream. We met firefighters. We watched a pirate show. We ran into many friends. We got (henna) tattoos.

And, yes, we even did some driving.

Driving at the fair









Driving at the fair








Driving at the fair







Already looking forward to next year…

Note that we wanted to catch the Sounder, but there are only two southbound trains in the morning–at 6:10 and 6:50 AM (too early!). The next train south isn’t until 3:15 PM (too late!).

Catching up, part II

• Metro gave a preview of the new Rapid Ride buses on Tuesday.

A KC Metro Rapid Ride bus(Photo credit: Seattlepi.com)

Sexy, no? The interiors aren’t bad, either.

And the agency had some more good news*:

…acting FTA Administrator Matt Welbes announced his agency is immediately releasing $13.8 million dollars to help fund the acquisition of new articulated hybrid-electric coaches and other system improvements to support Metro’s first RapidRide line. The funding will help pay for 16 new buses, various station and shelter enhancements and real-time information systems for the “A Line” serving the cities of Tukwila, Sea Tac, Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way beginning in 2010.

This is a good thing, since KC Metro is beyond broke at this point–and in the process of trying to figure out which existing service to cut.

•If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, watch the Streetfilm, “The Search for the Zozo.” I won’t even try to explain it. I’ll just say that it’s a bit different from the usual Streetfilms fare, and, if you’re in the mood for silly (Who isn’t these days?) it’s worth the watch.


• Pierce Transit driver Brentt Mackie won first place in the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Bus Roadeo. (Yes, people, there is really such a thing.)

From an APTA press release:

Lakewood, WA – For the second time in three years, Pierce Transit Bus Operator Brentt Mackie has been awarded the First Place trophy in the 40-foot Transit Coach Division at the 2009 International Bus Roadeo that just concluded in Seattle.


The Roadeo competition requires drivers to maneuver their vehicles through an intricate maze of graded exercises that includes serpentine turns, passenger stops, and reverse turns that duplicate the demanding requirements of everyday driving. The final exercise is high-speed braking where operators maneuver through a row of ten 55-gallon barrels spaced only inches wider than the bus.

Whoa. I want to be on his bus.

Brentt “Skillz” Mackie

This year, the festivities were held here in the 2-0-sickness. Seattle Transit Blog has the scoop on the other Washington State winners.

• Seattle police are cracking down on drivers who don’t stop at crosswalks.

Seattle police are sending more pedestrian decoys onto city crosswalks, to nab drivers who blow through without stopping.


Seattle tends to rank among the safest U.S. cities for pedestrians. Nonetheless, 468 car-pedestrian collisions were reported to police last year, said Gray. She is project manager for the city’s new Pedestrian Master Plan, soon to be released, which calls for more enforcement.

(Source: Seattle Times)

This issue was also one of the topics on KUOW’s The Conversation on Tuesday.

* I don’t have a link to the online version of this press release, but I will post it as soon as I do.

A brief layover

I’m finishing up a major project, so I won’t be posting here very frequently (or at all) for the next week or two. Before I go:

Remember Pierce Transit’s “bus buddy” program?

A bus buddy ad on a Pierce Transit shuttle

Apparently, Sound Transit has one, too.

Speaking of Pierce Transit…

Pierce County buses now have: GPS tracking, automatic stop announcements, and extensive two-way communication systems.

Thanks for the links, Andrew.

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style

The last time I went to the Puyallup Fair was the summer before I left for college. I took my youngest brother, who was nine at the time, and I don’t remember much about it–except that it was my last chance to spend QT with my “baby” before I moved away from home and that the ride down there (in my dad‘s trusty Toyota pickup) was really long.

Today Chicklet, Nerd, and I did the Puyallup as a family (yes, I realize it doesn’t get much more lentement), and thanks to Pierce Transit, we did it our favorite way: on the bus.

Our itinerary:

1. 27 from home to Third & Seneca
2. 594 from Second & University to Tacoma Dome Station (This was our first time taking the 594. Talk about a comfortable ride!)
3. Pierce Transit’s Puyallup Fair Shuttle from Tacoma Dome Station to the fairgrounds (The shuttle also serves several other Pierce County locations.)

Total travel time, from front door to fair entrance: 1.5 hours (not much longer than driving, given the traffic, and we didn’t have to hassle with event traffic/parking)

Total cost, which included fare upgrades for my pass and Bus Nerd’s ticket on the shuttle: $3.00 (a heck of a lot cheaper than driving)

Waiting for Puyallup Fair shuttle
Waiting for our chariot
A view of the Mountain, from the PF shuttle
The view on the way there
Puyallup Fair bus parking
Bus parking at the fair
Chicklet napping in the Ergo
Chicklet’s version of a car nap

And speaking of cars…

Car stroller
These were available for rent at the fairgrounds
Cars for sale at the fair
And these were available for sale

Thanks to ST for the fast, comfortable ride to Tacoma and to PT for providing alt transpo to the event. We didn’t have any trouble or setbacks getting to and fro, so I don’t have any major complaints, but it certainly could have been easier to plan the trip. I had to use three different websites (ST’s, PT’s, and the PF’s) to find all the information I needed. (PT’s rider information line was the number listed for questions, but the office is closed Sundays.)

The fair wasn’t exactly my flavor (and not just because there was a car dealership in the middle of the grounds), but Chicklet certainly seemed to enjoy herself. She got to practice some of her favorite words–piggies!, cow!, kids!–and experience all kinds of new sights and sounds. For those of you who are interested in doing the same, the fair–and the shuttle–run until the 21st.