Category Archives: alternate transportation

This Sweet Old World

I’ve been humming the tune of This Sweet Old World today, floating between grief and disbelief over the BP Spill.  This isn’t a scree about that mess, I don’t know what can really be said.  BP should promise flat out that it will do anything and everything possible to make this right, simply, clearly, no hedging.

This sweet old world….

S’anyway…

Yesterday I had a minor medical treatment that involved a small incision and some stitches.  No big. But I was somewhat dumbfounded when over the course of 25 minutes I saw the assistant put on, remove and toss in the garbage no less than six pairs of latex gloves.

No, really.  Six pairs.  Right in the plastic bag that held the growing mound of waste that would be collected up and thrown somewhere.  The ocean probably.

I mentioned my surprise to the assistant and he, without the slightest thought, said, “well, we have to use a new set of gloves each time we open a canister because the germs can spread so easily.”

Ok.  Picture this: my little treatment happening at that moment, hundreds and hundreds of times yesterday all around the world…cuz yeah, it wasn’t very exotic.  And then imagine more complex treatments, and full out surgeries. Imagine the amount of plastic bags full of latex and plastic wrappers emanating from those hospitals all around the world.

six pairs of latex gloves in 25 minutes

So I’ve been thinking about this. Rolling it around in my head, along with the beached whales this summer and their stomachs full of plastic, and the ease of plastic, and the mindlessness of plastic and then a talk by Bill McKibben gave on NPR the other day and his new book, Eaarth,  which argues for the end of growth.

How did I get there?  Because it is the magic thinking of an expanding universe of humanity that is at the root of most of our problems today…as McKibben says, we are now “too big to succeed.”

Consider: the growing universe of germs is due to an ever increasing population that is ever increasing its number of cure-all antibiotics that the invisible microbial world mutates to conquer again and again and again.

Consider: the more people we have, the more resources we use, in an obviously limited world.

Consider: the dwindling resources requires us to take ever more extreme actions to supply the ever increasing population of humans demanding ever more of everything, while believing there is no cause-and-effect–magic!.

There is a report today about the impact slowing down– reducing driving speeds– would have in a systemic way...proof positive that a small thing can make a big difference.  We could do this, but as a nation, the idea of slowing down is insulting, not to mention unenforced, and basically any questioning of our power to do what we want, when we want, and at the speed we want, is generally viewed as unpatriotic.  Our magic thinking has gone round the bend.

There are things we could do.  You and I both know there are things we could do differently, for the sake of this sweet old world.

What my pal said cuz she’s selling a scooter

We were sitting on the beach in the sun, I’d ridden my bike and was wearing some new shorts I got–loved ‘em and got ‘em just cuz. She said, “Well, as long as you’re out buying stuff, why not buy one of my Vespa scooters?”

Truth be told, I’d LOVE to be riding one of those cute little scooters around town in the summer–easy, cheap, cool and cute–who could ask for more? Some time ago, I had an old Vespa scooter, and then a Honda scooter. I loved them both, scooters are cool.

So my partner and I talked about it and thought: yeah, that’d be sweet to do our West Seattle errands on the scooter, or ride to the beach…

But then I looked at my bike. That’s what I use my bike for, and I LOVE my bike. Why would I switch? Plus, the bike adds the extra bonus of a little workout, and plus, it just runs on energy…no fossil fuels at all, ever. So why would I?

Time, my pal said. The Vespa would be sooo much faster and what if you had to do something in a hurry?

And then that got me to thinking about Slow Food, for some reason. I’ve written about Slow Food before, long time back…it’s a movement out of Italy started by one guy, Carlo Petrini, who was upset about the introduction of McDonald’s into the fine Italian culture and cuisine. From 65 members in 1986, the organization now has over 85,000 members worldwide and chapters in like 135 countries.

This summer an offshoot of the Slow Food movement, Slow Food Nation is having a festival in San Francisco, and really, I can’t imagine anywhere I’d like to go more than to a slow food fest in SF. That would be swell. Can’t do it, alas, but it would be swell.

Anyway, what’s the rush? I know, I have a job too. I have a tight schedule, and all those other things. And some stuff gets sluffed off the schedule just cuz there’s no time. But there’s also no feeling like escaping from your desk for 45 mins where no one can find you cuz you’re running errands on your bike. Clears your head, gets stuff done, and before you know it, you’re back.

Come on, it’s not THAT slow. A scooter, I decided, competes directly with my bike so even though that Vespa is doggone cute and would be so fun, we’ll likely stick with the bike. No reason not to, not really.

Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50′s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

Day 353-359: MLwC and Just Days Away From My One Year End Date!

I’ve been racing around so much lately that I haven’t been able to post much, but I’ve got a lot on my mind–lack of posts doesn’t equal lack of thoughts.

First, this project over in Poulsbo is still keeping me tied to my car in a way I thought I’d gotten away from. But I do understand that the use of my car to get to work doesn’t really mean I should change any of the other rules and parameters I set in place over the course of a year:

  1. Combine as many tasks into a trip as possible; keep task oriented trips to a minimum
  2. Use bike, bus or ped as much as possible to do tasks or meet people
  3. Plan time accordingly (that’s where I’m running into problems now)
  4. Keep car usage limited to must-use or special use whenever possible
  5. Enjoy a calmer state of mind by avoiding traffic and the need-for-speed automatic thinking that happens “behind the wheel.”

I felt last week a familiar sensation that I’ve associated with quitting any addictive habit. It goes like this: I’m driving more than I want to and because of that, I should just give up and drive all the time.

I know that sounds inane. I know. But tell the truth: have you not told yourself the same thing about habits you’re trying to change before? For example, say you’re trying to quit eating so many sweets. And so you set a rule–no more sweets. The next day you go to work and it’s someone’s birthday or it’s a holiday or something special, and there are sweets. You don’t want to be rude so you have some…

let them eat cake

Ughh. And then later, you just go, oh hell, now that I’ve had a small piece of cake, I should just forget about trying to not eat sweets and Bam! you’re back in the habit.

But it doesn’t have to work like that. You can flex, you can begin again, you can stay on course for the longer haul. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. Not giving up on the usual things like tasks and such, and in that way, I create space around the issue of my current commute. Without space, I can’t think creatively.

Next week: a review of turning point moments in my year long project.

Daily Stats:
Car: 82 miles (about 10 tasks, thank goodness)
Bike: 5.5 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: zero: I’m missing the bus!!

Days 318-323: MLwC and how to plan for bike traffic

In a recent NYTimes article, we find a discussion of bike safety in bike-haven Portland, Oregon.  Portland is probably America’s most bike friendly city, so if bikers get killed by cars there, you gotta wonder why.

Turns out that most bike accidents happen at intersections.  My own bike-car face-off (I lost) of some years back happened at an intersection.  It seems that drivers are only really paying attention to a couple of things at an intersection, those being: 1)when will this freaking light change so I can step on it, and 2) I don’t have to stop because I’m turning.  This second issue is the one  that nails a lot of cyclists, quietly parked off to the side waiting for the green light.  Not enough bulk, not enough chrome, not enough of something that can be easily seen by car drivers.

Portland Bike boxes

By allowing cyclists to wait in front of motorized traffic, the bike boxes are intended chiefly to reduce the risk of “right hook” collisions, the kind most frequently reported in Portland, in which a driver makes a right turn without seeing a cyclist who is in his path. Drivers will not be allowed to pass through the bike box to turn right on a red light, although many right hooks now occur after the light has turned green, when traffic quickly accelerates.

Right hooks were what killed the two cyclists in October, a college student and a bike racer hit by large trucks. The drivers say they did not see them.

“In a lot of people’s minds they weren’t doing anything wrong and they were just run over,” said Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for the Portland Office of Transportation.

It will be interesting to see how this works out with Seattle’s neighbor to the South.  Seattle is in the process of creating a bicycle task force to help guide development of bike transportation–which currently needs a LOT of guidance.

Daily Stats: (Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)

Car: 37 miles (trip to Poulsbo and back for work)
Bike: 9.5 miles (4 tasks)
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

Days 298-300: MLwC and not much else

Have you noticed–MLwC just crossed the 300 day mark. Closer and closer.

Don’t have time for much more than a tally right now…Are you ready for the solstice?

wintersolstice.jpg

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 5 miles
Bike: 5 miles
Ped: 1.5 miles
Bus: 8 miles

Days 294-297: MLwC, looking past the current president and the Seattle ride metro campaign

There’s an article in the NYTimes today about how the global climate summit in Bali that’s been taking place for the last two weeks, came to the conclusion that they would need to plan beyond the current US administration if they were going to deal with the future of the environment at all. And ain’t that just the way with all things George Bush: people, countries, governments all over try to work with him, try to include him, but he’s such a my-way-or-the-highway kinda guy that ultimately, those same groups do what they do in all systems: they learn to move around the unmovable object.

“The next presidential election takes place at the halfway point in these treaty talks,” David D. Doniger, who directs climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council and served in the Clinton administration, said on his Web log on Saturday. “So the U.S. will field a new team in the second half. And there are good odds that the next president will get serious on global warming.”

….

Some environmental groups criticized Europe for not sticking to its guns. But it appeared that, in the end, the Europeans followed a path recommended in a speech last Monday by former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

He advised Bali negotiators to look beyond the Bush administration, whose tenure ends in one year.

If George Bush were just some yahoo from Texas (and soon he will be), I wouldn’t mind. Big whoop. But he has had his way with our global reputation and standing for nearly 8 years, much to our continued and growing chagrin, and I’m sick of it. A lot of people are sick of it. I don’t even take any pleasure in knowing he will be remembered as our worse president ever. What he’s dragged this country into isn’t worth any comeuppance, I just want him to go away.

So, okay. On to other things. Here in Seattle, there’s a plan in the works to try to wean some drivers off their car addiction in the coming two years. It’s part of a larger initiative to remove 2,688 cars from the daily commute in a number of ways. The one that caught my eye is called the Green Bike initiative and it works like this:

The “Green Bike Pilot” project provides drive-alone commuters with new commuter bicycles, training and gear in exchange for a pledge to reduce their drive-alone trips by 60 percent. Bike mentors will provide social support to new participants with route planning, tune-ups and bicycle safety training. Participants who fulfill their pledge will get to keep their bikes and will gain a healthy and sustainable commute habit. This unique project will help improve environmental and personal health, mobility and livable communities by providing a low-cost, carbon-free commute choice for commuters throughout King County. This project proposes to reduce 510 vehicle commute trips.

Some will likely get hot under the collar about the cost of providing bikes to people who could probably afford to buy one…but that’s not the point here. The point is very clearly to create a community support system to help people change behaviors around driving. And on the surface, that seems like a good idea. I’ll be interested to follow this.

Tomorrow I’m trying a new route to my job over on the peninsula in P-bo–bus downtown, ferry over, friend picks me up and we drive together to the office. It’s a start.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 46 miles (peninsula, three tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 16 miles

Days 292 & 293: MLwC and a few other things

gotta be quick today. But I’ve been reading some other blogs and wanted to highlight a couple.

First, my neighbor Tom who is the bigolddaddy, discusses all the myriad of things one might do if one didn’t watch TV. Now, to some degree and in some ways, watching TV is like driving–it’s way too easy, way too mindless and way too addicting. Tom and family don’t watch TV at all which I think helps make their kids the creative, smart, thoughtful oddballs that they are. They’re all big readers. The great thing about reading? You choose what goes in your head. TV doesn’t really do that. Sure, you could turn it off, but most of the population doesn’t–it’s like this channel into your brain. So, some of the things Tom lists that you could do instead of watching TV are listed below. I would add to this: ride your bike. It will take you a little longer to get where you’re going and the trip will be pleasanter and you’ll be in better shape and also…you’ll have less time to sit in front of that TV.

  • read a book
  • talk to your family
  • go for a walk
  • call a friend
  • write a letter
  • clean out your closet
  • exercise
  • pray
  • volunteer
  • dust
  • visit a neighbor
  • cook
  • learn something new
  • look out a window
  • take a nap
  • balance your checkbook
  • knit
  • play a game
  • blog

I love this list, Tom, Thanks!

Another site, LiveGreen, has a great list of sites that will help us all be a little more mindful as we dwell in this consumer-centric time of year. Check out all the goods here, it’s an interesting roll call.

Re my year long car project, I’ve recently accepted a job with a company that is a bit of a drive and a ferry ride away. Fortunately, I can do a lot of work remotely from home, but this will sure test my car usage. I am aiming to figure out the mass transit way to work this out, but first I’ve got to get used to the job and the team and all the other stuff.

Daily Stats (Tues, Wed)

Car: 29 miles (B-vue and back)
Bike: 13 miles
Ped: 1.5
Bus: 14 miles

Days 282-284: MLwC and thinking about pavement differently

Recently Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickels spoke on our local radio station KUOW to address environmental issues in the Puget Sound area. He discussed his leadership in the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which evolved from the current Fed decision to not participate in the Kyoto agreement. Nickels and many other mayors took matters in their own hands and decided to lead the charge by having their own cities live up to the Kyoto agreement’s mandates, and more. The goal continues to be to cut greenhouse emissions to 20-30% of 1990 levels by 2020–that being a watershed year for change, if it’s going to happen.

Everyone complains about their local government, and I’m not push-over for Nickels but this discussion on KUOW was encouraging. The main thing I took away was Nickels’ understanding of the recent election in which the people clearly voted: no more roads. His goal is to change behaviors around transportation and lifestyle habits–no small undertaking. But his approach is interesting: there will be sacrifice with ammenities. What does he mean by that?

Well, it won’t be easy or cheap to drive downtown. Parking rates have gone sky high, parking is simply not a priority anymore, there won’t be more pavement to get downtown so traffic isn’t going to get a lot better. On the other hand, he’s making it very attractive for companies to pay for employee transit options, downtown living has truly never been more attractive than it is now in Seattle, there are plans for more and better parks and recreation areas closer to dense living sectors, and access by bikes, scooters and pedestrians will be better than ever. I like that–and really hope it happens. Most encouraging, however, is simply the recognition that behavior has to change.

As for the 520 bridge, a big bone of contention as it is the main arterial to Microsoft from the west side of Lake Washington, Nickels couldn’t have been clearer: No More Pavement. Fix what we have, and focus on transit alternatives, mass transit that works for people and is actually an attractive alternative. There are lots of competing interests out there on this front, it will be interesting to see if they can come together for a smart decision that stands up to the environmental issues of our day.

Bottom line: nice to see an elected official talking about the hardest issue of all, behavior change. You can’t buy your way out of that problem.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 37 miles (about 5 errands, including a biz trip to Bainbridge island…gotta figure that one out but quick.)
Bike: 0
Ped: 2 miles
Bus: 0
potentially west seattle and ballard

Days 269 thru 272: MLwC–it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Beach Drive Western Exposure

So, after many days of dreary gray skies and buckets of rain, today burst forth with brilliant sunlight, crisp blue skies and puffy clouds rolling across the horizon. I took a ride to Alki and to run my errands and stopped to take a snap of this view–too bright, actually, so I put my polarized sun glasses over the lens and got this result. Not bad for an iPhone camera and shades!

I’ll be driving my old car this coming holiday quite a little bit which will blow my stats for the quarter–they were already suffering compared to summer when the livin’ is easy. That’s just the way it is and will be around the holidays. I don’t mind though; I know I’ve radically changed my thinking and relationship to driving and cars and the whole dang mess. Driving now is for necessity and for special events–it’s just not an every day occurrence anymore and that, for me, is revolutionary.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving (except for the turkeys–I wish them a luckier incarnation next time around ;-))–plenty of laughter, love and good food, veggie or otherwise!

 

Daily Stats: (Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue)

Car: 11 miles (2 peeps, 4 errands)
Bike: 10 miles (3 errands)
Ped: coupla miles
Bus: 0

Day 264-266: MLwC and a Seattle Transit Rider’s Union?

I continue to be intrigued with the idea of a bus and transit rider’s union, which I touched on in a recent post. What would a transit rider’s union do and why might it be a good idea here in Seattle? In Los Angeles, the bus rider’s union has a voice in most if not all transportation plans and strategies, making sure that everybody has access to effective, useful, and affordable mass transit.

This means taking on large, well funded, contractor friendly boondoggles like light rail propositions that serve a tiny sliver of the population at the expense of the transit riders. It means making sure the routes serve all groups and that rates remain affordable. It means maintaining a holistic view of alternate transportation options to the single-occupant vehicle muddle that most urban areas struggle with now.

What might a bus and transit rider’s union do in Seattle? It would help the city hear the Voice of the Transit rider, as well as all the other voices that are shouting for traffic relief. That voice and presence at the table would maintain the perspective that effective routes and timetables, reasonable rates, safe buses and bus stop areas will help Metro Transit attract and keep new riders, thereby reducing SOV traffic and improving the environment to boot.

I’ve been so intrigued with this idea that I’ve started a wiki to begin tracking resources regarding transportation, and will add more categories to it as time goes along. Please feel free to add any resources or start new pages as you see fit–the them is personal action and the environment.

How can we start a Transit Rider’s Union in Seattle? I’m no organizer, for sure, but I’d be happy to help and to learn from others who have ideas about this.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 20 miles and 3 tasks
Bike: 0
Ped: 6
Bus: 0

Days 261-263: MLwC and the Blog of the Day

I’m just getting so much enjoyment out of La Marguerite’s blog and her blog actions. Two different things: her own writings that she is posting on her blog chronicle her daily actions–like ALL of her action and how they impact the environment. She calls it her Daily Footprint Project and she uses it to track usage of the car, walking, eating, flushing the toilet–all of it. I could no more do that than jump over the moon, I don’t have the attention span to do it, but I’m so enjoying her journey, and learning a lot.

Her posts make me think about things differently. And that’s not surprising: Marguerite has a strong background in psychology and comes at this project and blogging in general from a very behavior oriented perspective, as well as vivid systems thinking. Systems thinking can drive a person crazy after awhile but I’m convinced that without it, we become numb with various denial techniques such as frenzied lifestyles and useless anxiety. Marguerite seems to have a helpful approach to systems thinking that asks the right questions and offers some good answers.

The other thing she’s doing is inviting certain bloggers to share their BlogAct--what they’re doing via their own blogs to encourage consciousness around the environment. In my own case, I’ve radically changed my relationship to my car. That in turn has changed my relationship to the dominant culture in a lot of ways that I chronicle here in my blog. There are many others on La Marguerite’s site and because of this collection she’s started, I’ve been introduced to some really great bloggers and encouraged once more by the vast conversation happening online about the environment.

So head on over to La Marguerite’s site and enjoy!

Daily Stats (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 0
Bike: 17.5
Ped: approx 1.5
Bus: 15

Day 260: MLwC, a new group of voters and a bus riders’ union!

Yesterday I posted a comment that lamented our collective and general inability to put large concepts into practice in our daily lives, a large generality that is mostly true, but startlingly untrue sometimes. I read today in the Seattle PI about how the mass transit part of the transportation bill that was voted down Tuesday (Prop 1) would have passed if it hadn’t been bundled with the new roads plan. Very interesting indeed.

It appears there is a new and growing group of voters who do indeed vote based on the large concepts:

But Riehle said he saw a new concern that could have changed Prop 1′s outcome.

“A new group of voters played a decisive role in determining the results,” he said. “We found that there was a group of voters who we would describe as pro-transit defectors.”

This new class was identified by cross tabbing voters who said they would have voted yes to a transit only plan with those who voted no on Proposition 1.

“Of that group that were pro-transit defectors…the single largest reason they gave (for voting no) was environmental impacts like global warming.”

That group of pro-transit defectors represented about 6 percent of all the voters who participated in the Proposition 1 election.

“In an election where the final margin might be around 12 percent, that suggests that in the absence of their concern about global warming this would have been a much closer election than it was.”

And what does that mean for the future of transportation issues in this region? I think it probably means that the Sierra Club and other groups will be invited to the Big Boys’ conversation next time. And that can only be good for everyone.

On another front, there is talk of a Bus Rider’s Union here in Seattle. I’ve seen the mention a couple of times in The Stranger and I’m curious to learn more. To quote one fed up bus rider in his Stranger article:

Rail is one solution. In every city I’ve ever been to—even cities with decent, clean, reliable bus service—riding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we aren’t going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who don’t stink, aren’t wasted, aren’t selling drugs, aren’t harassing other passengers, and aren’t raving loudly to themselves?

A bus riders’ union, like the ones formed by fed-up citizens in many other cities? More police on buses? A stricter hygiene and drug use policy—one that’s actually enforced, rather than the completely toothless system we have now? More frequent bus service and a kiosk at bus stops telling riders when the next bus will arrive? A faster, perhaps curbside, ticketing system?

Most of the buses I ride are okay, but downtown, the buses can be pretty terrible sometimes.  I think a whole lot could be done if there were a Union that Metro Transit listened to and worked with, you know: actual riders at the table helping to figure out how to build ridership and make bus riding a viable alternative to cars.  I want to investigate this more.  The articles in the Stranger I’ve come across indicate other cities are doing this–stay tuned.

Daily Stats: (thu)
Car: 8
Ped: 1.5
Bike: 0
Bus: 14.5

Days 258-259: MLwC and Roads, Revisited, Rejected, Reviled

Thanks to Carless in Seattle for surfacing the above vid, a commercial which actually made the hair on my neck tingle with anxiety.

I’ve posted a couple of times about Prop 1/RTID referendum here in Washington; of course we had the election yesterday and it looks like the proposal is going down in defeat, if not flames.

I’ve been watching the comments on the news articles in the local papers and thought several of them were worthy of repeating here, as I think sometimes we underestimate our citizenry and they’re ability to rationally think through an issue. Of course there are lots of posts that do not represent the most rational approach, but hey. You can’t please everyone.

Posted by lowerwallfrd at 11/7/07 12:28 a.m.

I really wanted to vote for Prop 1, it just did too little for too much money, I had to vote no. I hope we have a similar and better planned bill next year. Light rail to Tacoma is stupid. I think Sound Transit is a nightmare waiting to happen. There are no additional funds that should be given to those pretenders.

Posted by cj in seattle at 11/7/07 3:53 a.m.

Perhaps it would help if we had smaller $$ for more specific spending goals. I think the size of this and the fact that it was a multiple project package scared people off.

Both my self and my husband ended up voting for it even though it size of it made me think on it a while. I recognize the importance of the responsibility of one generation to those who come after.

I think though that if we could get a package for just mass transit that it would take off nicely with voter support. There has been so much corruption in government that the public has become jaded by it. They don’t trust it anymore. Its important to public servants to recognize this.

Posted by jungleal at 11/7/07 5:51 a.m.

Prop 1′s flame out is worth getting up out of bed early to celebrate. Let’s have the media bring to light every penny of gas tax hike spending. Bring back those “Your Nickel at Work” project signs, and how about some “Your Another 9.5 Cents at Work” signs and some “Your Original 23 Cents at Work” signs and a breakdown of where the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax is going. If the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge are so fragile and dangerous, why are they not receiving more immediate gas tax money??

Posted by rwb77 at 11/7/07 6:33 a.m.

For affordable light rail: build it like many other cities are at much less cost, at-grade, not elevated or tunneled. Build it on existing rights of way, like highways and abandoned railroads. The gold-plated Sound Transit version is great for contractors but bad for taxpayers. And for a route, how about a simple loop around the lake? Start at Southcenter, branching off from the current elevated line, go to Renton, follow the old railroad right of way north to Bothell, around the upper end of the lake to Northgate, then past Husky Stadium into downtown. Don’t try a potential engineering nightmare with tracks across the lake; dedicate both floating bridges to Bus Rapid Transit; those are the two corridors where it would probably be most feasible.

For highways, spend dollars first on safety and maintenance (remember a certain bridge in Minneapolis this past summer …..). It is not WSDOT’s responsiblity to enable people to commute 40 miles one way at 60 mph on the same road at the same time as 100,000 other people. That’s what happens whenever new lanes are approved: developers come in with new housing and new strip malls and by the time the lane opens, it’s as gridlocked as the older lanes.

Posted by SleeplessInSeattle at 11/7/07 7:31 a.m.

Proposition 1 is NOT a comprehensive package. It is mainly an Eastside improvement project, with a small fragment thrown in for the rest of the area in an effort to gloss over what it really is. Is there anyone out there who is really dense enough to believe that light rail to Mercer Island and Bellevue addresses this area’s major transportation problems and environmental concerns, much less does anything to repair the roads and bridges in most need of improvement?!

We already voted in and pay an exhorbitant gas tax in this state for what was supposed to fund road/brige repair and improvement projects. At the time, 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were specifically mentioned as projects that would be completed with that gas tax money. Senators Murray and Cantwell also got federal disaster money to help repair 520 and the Viaduct. Almost immediately after those two money sources came into fruition, our new governor began looking for ways to legally divert the Viaduct portion of those funds to 520. So, mark my words, 520 will be rebuilt whether Proposition 1 passes or not. Proposition 1 was just the boondoggle they were looking for to build the new 520. Now they’ll just have to use the money that was already budgeted for it, plus impose tolls. Gee, what a concept. And, yes, I certainly was thinking of my children, and their children. . .when I voted no. They would be the next generation paying for this mess, and they too would have no money left to devote to projects which would actually improve the quality of life in this area.

It’s interesting that when push comes to shove, the vote was anger directed at the government, and bewilderment over taxes already set aside for projects that are not being done. Very few of the comments really take on the larger issue of Transportation Alternatives or the issue of global climate change. Those issues are likely too big for most people to actually apply to a vote on roads. Nevertheless, and for whatever combination of reasons, we have wisely elected to not get sidetracked building roads to Redmond as a weird panacea for the rest or our many, many transportation problems.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5
Bus: 0
Many remote conferences, email, vid conferences and other alternative connectivity.

Day 255-256: MLwC and Prop 1 in Seattle

My neighbors Susan and Tom stopped me in the driveway yesterday asking if I’d read Jay Inslee’s opinion in the Seattle PI from Thursday regarding his endorsement of the hotly contested Prop 1 transportation bill. I like Jay Inslee so I was interested to hear he was supporting this thing, but indicated I’d already voted, and my vote was No.

I read the opinion and we returned to the discussion later in the evening around their always-welcoming kitchen table–good old fashioned grass roots political discussion, you don’t have much of that anymore. So, I announced up front that Inslee’s editorial not only didn’t change my mind, it actually knocked Inslee down a few pegs for me. Why? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs back to back, and we’ll go from there:

Prop. 1 also would improve bus service, create new bike lanes and add HOV lanes — additional means of getting commuters out of single-passenger cars.

Alas, there’s not much explanation of how it would improve any of those things, and those things–bus and bike–are very important to me. So far, I’ve seen “bike lanes” all over the city that amount to a white line separating the main street from the street parking area. If there are no cars parked there, you can use that space as a bike lane. And buses–don’t get me started. Now the corresponding quote:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State. We can’t rely on a strategy of doing away with all passenger vehicles, all the time. But it is a realistic strategy to get next generation green cars mass produced and supplemented with mass-transit projects, such as those in Prop. 1.

Excuse me? Prop 1 has nothing to do with revolutionizing automobiles. What’s interesting to me is that this part of his article is very articulate about something that doesn’t exist, while the very real need of improved mass transit barely gets two lines. So Inslee’s article was, well, not convincing. We’ll leave it at that.

Now for Prop 1 itself. Interestingly, Inslee’s article title is “Take Bold Action by Passing Prop 1,” and that where I have to laugh. Bold? Isn’t Bold a code word for lots and lots of money? Bold in this case certainly cannot be referring to more of the same–the bottom line on this Prop. More of the same: more north/south light rail, more HOV lanes to Redmond, more and wider roads….where is the breakout thinking? Where is the vast new plan that suggests proprietary lanes for bikes and buses, for example? Or that closes most roads into downtown like London did? Give me a truly bold plan and I’ll give you my vote, but don’t give me more of the same and ask me to believe it’s going to change anything.

Susan riffed for a while on how myth makes us suffer, and it seems applicable with regard to transportation. The myth is we can buy our way out of our current single-occupancy-car-addiction without having to change or do anything different. That’s the myth. We hold onto it, we invest in it, and the more we invest, the harder it is to change our thinking. The truth is we have to change the way we think and the way we do things. We have to make more room for bikes, buses, rapid transit. We have to actually give up something to get something new. No one wants to propose truly Bold action because the public doesn’t want to have to do anything.

To quote Carless in Seattle once again:

Excess demand for roadways during peak hours is the real problem, to which congestion is the most feasible solution.

And for that reason alone, I’m sticking with my vote for Prop 1. It’s simply not Bold enough.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 16