Tag Archives: snOMG

More snow talk

My latest for Grist: “Driving a car doesn’t mean being in control”:

It’s during the times we are not able to drive that it becomes clear just how little “control” a car-dependent life provides. Driving a mile or more to buy a gallon of milk or a box of Band-Aids may not seem especially remarkable until your alternator dies. Or gas prices rise above $4 per gallon. Or the roads are covered in a foot of snow.

Read the rest…

snOMG, pedestrian edition

One of the things I appreciate about living in the city is that I’m never far from basic necessities. So, times like now (when even buses are down for the count), I can still walk to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the library, and et cetera. At least, theoretically I can.


Slippery sidewalks in Seattle

Slippery sidewalks are bad for bus riders

Don’t even get me started on the hills.

Several of my readers have asked me to remind Seattle folk that property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses. (In case you care, the requirement is spelled out in section 15.48.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code.) I happen to think this is impractical for several reasons*, not the least of which is the fact that (if we are to judge by the condition of the sidewalks) no one seems to know this.

But, in the absence of any concerted campaign by the city to inform citizens of this rule, we pedestrians must take matters into our own hands.

Psst! You have to shovel your own sidewalk. Pass it on!

*Who’s in charge of the bus stops? The sidewalks in front of parks? The stretches of sidewalk with no adjacent homes or businesses? Those folks aren’t doing any shoveling!

Metro’s new and improved snow response plan

As much as we all enjoyed guessing which routes were running (and where) during last year’s big snowstorm(s)…

A snow-disabled 14 in December of 2008

Metro’s developed a new plan to improve predictability and communication during severe winter weather. From a KC Metro press release:

This season, customers will be able use the Internet to quickly see which buses in the Metro system are on snow route based on “geographic area.” Just as congestion is measured by color on congestion flow maps, the use of green, yellow or red on Metro’s new online snow map will give riders a snapshot of bus operations in each of seven geographic areas of the county. Green will indicate buses are operating on normal routes, yellow will signify minor reroutes (primarily in higher elevation areas), and red will alert customers that buses in the entire geographic area are on snow route or are being significantly impacted by snow.

If a major snowstorm spanning several days strikes, Metro will activate a newly designed Emergency Service Network for its fleet. When the network is activated, Metro’s regular routes will be replaced with 70 pre-identified “priority” snow routes across the county designed to be reliable in severe weather conditions. Metro will make every attempt to keep service operating on these routes as long as transportation service providers are able to keep roads passable.

…Customers are also being encouraged to sign up online for enhanced Metro Transit Alerts being launched today that will deliver email or text messages about widespread service disruptions or weather events impacting their individual bus route.

Hallelujah. (I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for targeted alerts.) And about those impassable roads…

Based on lessons learned last winter, Metro has revised and simplified snow routes and has closely coordinated with other public works and transportation agencies to make sure bus routes are identified as priorities for plowing and sanding. Agency leaders also negotiated a separate agreement with the city of Seattle to exchange staff during weather emergencies for improved coordination and to help the city plow streets, if necessary, in an effort to keep buses moving.

I can’t say I’m eager to test the new system this winter, but–should the unthinkable happen (again)–here’s hoping for clear sidewalks, so folks can actually make it to the routes that are running.

Snow: bad. Improved communication: good.

More snow (?!) is expected this weekend (conveniently, the same weekend as a bus fam planned excursion to Issaquah). The good news is that Metro is working hard to improve its (previously abysmal) adverse-weather communication with customers. From a KC Metro press release:

With snow again in the forecast, King County Metro Transit is gearing up to keep buses moving and to keep riders better informed…

In the event of a snowstorm this weekend, King County will use the Twitter social-networking system and a county blog posted prominently on www.kingcounty.gov to provide all known Metro service disruptions related to bad weather.


To get the latest Metro Transit messages on Twitter, go to: www.twitter.com/kcnews. The King County Alert blog is online at: www.kingcounty.gov/kcnews.

This is long overdue, but I must give Metro props for taking steps to address a major weakness. And the best news of all:

By next winter, transit users should find even more communication improvements. Metro is already upgrading the Metro Online website, developing a new transit alert messaging system, beefing up information staffing for emergency events, and planning for the integration of new technology that tracks bus reroute and service disruptions as a new source of real-time information.


Creative commuting (or, more snow talk)

Yesterday, Bus Nerd and I finally accepted that weather/transportation conditions were not going to improve on our timeline and decided to make our way downtown, despite the limited-to-nonexistent bus service and ridiculously treacherous sidewalks in our neighborhood.

The 48 was the only one of our six regular buses that was even running (they don’t call it Metro’s Heavyweight for nothin’), and the 48 doesn’t go anywhere near downtown. We were not deterred. Our options were:

1. Take the 48 south to Rainier & McClellan and transfer to the 7.
2. Take the 48 north to Montlake and transfer to a westbound 545 or 255.
3. Walk down Jackson to the ID and transfer to a 7, 36, or 42. (Our neighbor, Casey, who works in Renton, has been walking down Jackson to catch the 101, so we knew it was doable.)

We opted for option 3. My experience Saturday left me a little skittish about bus crowding/getting passed up, so I liked the idea of being close enough to downtown to walk the rest of the way. Which is what we ended up doing.

Despite the challenges of maneuvering Chicklet’s light, bus-friendly stroller on the snowy/slushy/icy sidewalks, it wasn’t that bad. I was glad to be moving my behind for the first time in several days, and we actually made it all the way downtown before we even saw a 7, which was packed, Mumbai style.

We opted to walk (well, aside from a 70 ride to 3rd & Jackson) home, too. I was so not trying to be a part of the 17 zillion-person standoff on Third Avenue, prepared to fight just to cram myself in like a sardine and creep down a snowy street to another (cold!) bus stop and repeat the process. I’ll spare you the gory details of the journey home (after dark, on halfway melted sidewalks, with a snowsuited-up chicklet who was totally over it and then some) and just say that we were glad when we finally made it to our warm home.

In the walkway, we ran into our neighbor, Julieta, who was returning from a two-and-a-half hour trip home from her job in SoDo: packed ride on the 21 north to Union > long wait > packed ride on the 42 south to McLellan > long wait > packed ride 48 north to home.

I think she’s considering walking tonight.

No, no, no

Reroutes and delays I can work with, but I do have two busing-in-bad-weather pet peeves. Both are captured in this photo.

Crowd waiting for 14
Westbound 14 stop at 23rd & Jackson, 11 AM

BiBW peeve #1: Bus haters-turned-(temporary)-bus-lovers

There were 15 people waiting for the (almost-on-time) 14 with us, and I’m willing to bet that half of them hadn’t been on a bus in a decade. (How do I know, you ask? I have my ways.)

I’m hardly one to complain when folks try transit (no matter the reason), but I do think all these bus-chicks-come-lately (who won’t be back on a bus until it snows again) should be the ones who stand on the routes they’re crowding up. I say, those of us who’ve been down with Metro since day one should be able to reap the benefits of our loyalty.

Priority seating for frequent riders? Why, yes! After all, ridership has its privileges. Maybe we OG bus types should start getting “Rider since” dates printed on our passes.

BiBW peeve #2: Slippery sidewalks

The dirt truck made it to my street a day and a half after Thursday’s big snow, but the sidewalks still look like an ice rink right before the Zamboni does its thing. And I don’t live off the beaten path; I live at a major intersection (which is also a major bus hub). Even some downtown streets are completely covered in ice. I’ve heard tell that property owners are responsible for clearing their section of the sidewalk, but I don’t think they got the memo (I’ve yet to see any communication from the city on the subject), and it seems like a less-than-efficient way of handling the issue. In the meantime, walking anywhere (not just to bus stops) is extremely treacherous.

I realize that the city has its hands full right now (and is probably up to here with haters criticizing its handling of weather issues), but what’s up with that?

I know I said I didn’t like writing about the weather

But if this ain’t a blatant example of carism

Carism in winter

Whycome they put dirt down for the cars but not for the pedestrians? A girl could mess up her fly winter coat (not to mention her tailbone) just tryna get on the 27.

Seriously, though, what’s the deal, here?

Carism in winter, part II

Yesler is a major street. Did the city drop the ball, or is it the responsibility of residences and businesses to clear their own sections of the sidewalk?